WALES on SUNDAY May16, 2010 May16, 2010 WALES on SUNDAY Whowill Manageto Boss the Big One? Football Reporter CHRIS WATHAN Finds out What Makes Wembley-Bound Pals Dave Jones and Ian Holloway Tick Ahead of Their Championship Play-Off Final Date
STUBBORN or self-willed? Passionless or level-headed? Arrogant or confident? Seen in different ways by different people, it really is a case of like him or loathe him when it comes to Dave Jones the manager.
Surely that will change should the Bluebirds boss take the final step to the Premier League in six days' time at the expense of his good friend, the Blackpool manager Ian Holloway.
But then again, the same was said when he took Cardiff City to the FA Cup final two years ago.
Jones, it seems, just can't help but split opinions.
Yet a fan or not of his mannerisms, his dugout demeanour, his straight-talking sobriety, the fact is he's proven over and over again that he's a good manager. A case of substance over style, perhaps. And if football is all about the results, he has them: the League Cup run and promotion with Stockport, the survival against the odds at Southampton, the play-off glory with Wolves and now this push for the Premier at Cardiff.
"I think he's just very good at building teams, it's as simple as that," says Stuart Gray, Jones' assistant manager at both Southampton andWolves.
"He has his own way about going things and he won't care very much if no-one else likes it because he knows it works for him.
"He gets criticised for different things, for not jumping up and down in the technical area but what does that achieve? "All that matters is that he gets the job done and he is someone who thinks about the game 24-7. "I wouldn't call him stubborn, he just knows the formula he had at Stockport and that he's built upon since is the right one."
It's certainly served him well - and could yet bring him what surely would be his greatest achievement.
Indeed, few managers have two promotions to the Premier League under their belts.
But Jones' dogged determination in his own methods - whether they're liked by anyone else or not - seems to have been shaped by his feeling that he's been robbed of his place in the Premier.
Those fabricated abuse claims saw his Saints spell ended after two-and-a-half successful seasons.
Then he went down with Wolves when the investment into the squad he was supposedly promised never came.
"I don't think it's changed him but it might have added to his determination," admits Gray, currently on the coaching staff at Burnley.
"He's seen opportunities taken away from him and there is a sense that he deserves to have his chance again.
"He's been through some very difficult times with what happened at Southampton and I knowhewas disappointed by events at Wolves, but he's proved himself as a good manager again and again by working his socks off and doing it his way.
"It's like the disappointment of missing out last year. He's used it as a driving force like he's done all his career."
The other trademark of his coaching career is getting the best out of players, whether they're a bad bunch or not.
"That says a lot about his man-management," adds Gray.
"He takes players other managers justwon't touchand gets the best out of them.
"How? It's just the way he is with players; he'll take them into his office, sit them down, listen to them, share their problems.
"It's one of his main strengths, the one-on-ones and gaining the confidence of players in his squad.
"He gets them to put their trust in him and the players are happy to play for him.
"He'll rip into them when it's needed, but it's behind four walls and that's where it stays."
As does much of Jones' true character, perhaps explaining why some fans have struggled to take to him.
"He keeps things to himself," adds Gray. "He's private with a lot of things but that doesn't mean he doesn't care.
"When you get close to him you can feel the disappointment or the passion.
"Just because he doesn't jump up and down doesn't mean it's not there. …