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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 August 2007, 18:51 GMT 19:51 UK
Remembering Ray
Joe Gallen
By Joe Gallen
Former QPR youth coach

The first time I saw Ray Jones, I knew there was something very special there.

He was playing park football when myself and John O'Brien, who was the recruitment officer at QPR, came across him. I said to John: 'Just look at that kid. He's 15 years old, he's huge and plays like a 24-year-old. We've got to sign him.'

Ray had such natural ability, great touch and great strength.

I knew it would take a while for a boy of that size to grow into his body but there was no doubt in my mind I was looking at a star in the making.

I was always convinced that once he got through the teenage years he'd be absolutely unstoppable

Joe Gallen

And I knew for sure that he could go right to the top when I met his mum. She was such a superb mother. She was so level-headed and so dedicated to Ray, and determined for him to do well.

I thought at that point we had things sewn up at both ends. I'd look after him at QPR, and away from the club we'd have no worries because he was in great hands.

He played for us in an Under-18s game against Swindon. He was still only 15 then. He scored and was outstanding.

We wouldn't usually have signed a player after just one game but we signed Ray after that. We'd seen more than enough.

In the next game he scored two superb goals and I was thinking to myself we had one hell of a player on our hands.

I got really close to Ray after that. We spent loads of time together and he was fantastic. He trained hard and would always be coming to me and saying 'Joe, let's do more training. Let's practise finishing.'

Gary Waddock gave Ray his first-team debut when he was still a second-year apprentice. When he scored his first senior goal, I said to Ray afterwards that it'd be the first of many. I was totally convinced it would be.

And when he made his international debut for the England Under-19s, when he was still just 17, I looked at him and felt I'd be seeing a lot more of him in an England shirt.

I took his mum to that game. I was so proud of him and so proud of her.

QPR striker Ray Jones, who has died in a car crash
Ray Jones died in a car crash last week

I'll never forget that night. Everything was moving so fast for Ray. In a short space of time he'd gone from playing in the park to scoring goals for QPR and getting international recognition.

Make no mistake about it, before he signed a pro contract last summer there were Premiership clubs interested in signing him. More recently, he hadn't been playing so much. That was partly down to an injury.

It also takes a while for young players with Ray's physique to grow into themselves, adapt and find their feet as a player.

I was always convinced that once he got through the teenage years and into his early 20s, he'd be absolutely unstoppable.

And I know others in football felt the same. Compare Ray at 17 or 18 with Peter Crouch at 19. When Peter first came back to QPR from Tottenham he struggled a bit.

Ray was stronger than Peter at a younger age, had a brilliant touch for such a big guy and was scoring goals at an even younger age for QPR than Peter did.

I used to say to Ray he was better than Crouch was at his age. And look at Crouch now - playing for Liverpool and England.

Ray was on the same career path. No doubt about it. He had the attitude and ability to reach the very top. There was never any doubt in my mind that Ray was destined for the top. Not just the Premier League, but the international stage as well. That's how good he was.

He was the most outstanding striker of his type out there. Show me another player of that age, of that size with the natural attributes of Ray's.

606: TRIBUTES

Ray would have added his name to the list of great players QPR have had down the years, and he would have achieved many great things in his career.

That makes his death even more of a tragedy. I just can't believe it. I spoke to Ray about 10 days ago and I can't take in what's happened.

And it comes after the tragic death of Kiyan Prince, who I also worked with. It's very difficult to accept.

When I got the call on Saturday telling me what had happened to Ray, it was like the similar, terrible call I received about Kiyan last year. It knocked me for six.

Ray was a credit to himself and his family, and he will be sadly missed and fondly remembered. I was so, so proud of him.

  • Joe Gallen was talking to David McIntyre



  • SEE ALSO
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    23 Sep 06 |  Championship


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