Aug 22 2013 by David Prentice, The Liverpool Post
THE new League One season was barely two weeks old when Andrai Jones became Tranmere’s first loan signing of 2013/14.
You can all but guarantee he’ll be the first of many.
Jones was hastily recruited on a month-long deal from Barnsley last Friday when Rovers’ slim squad of 20 was reduced to 17 as Ian Goodison and Akpo Sodje joined skipper James Wallace on the casualty list.
Without Jones, a 21-year-old full-back from Toxteth, manager Ronnie Moore would not have had enough professionals available to put seven substitutes on the bench for the League One visit to Crewe Alexandra.
As it was, Jones was the only specialist defender among the seven and was thrown into action sooner than expected after right back Danny Holmes was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 34th minute of the 2-1 defeat.
Holmes is suspended for the visit of early League One leaders Peterborough United on Saturday, making Jones a shoo-in for a place in the starting XI.
All of which leaves Rovers back at square one in terms of cover for the defensive positions.
No wonder Moore and his coaching staff have been out this week scouting defenders from Premier League and Championship clubs who might be available on loan.
“We have a threadbare squad in terms of numbers to cover the various positions and the defensive areas are our main concern,” assistant manager John McMahon said this week.
Finding cover and competition for the fullbacks was one issue, building some stability into the heart of a defence which has conceded eight goals in three League One games is another.
The next target is likely to be a centre back, ideally one who can operate on the left side of the partnership where neither Ash Taylor nor Stephen Foster has looked as comfortable as they do on the right.
Jones, who has 20-plus first-team games for Bury and Barnsley under his belt, made a positive start at Crewe, where he set up Tranmere’s consolation goal for Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro. McMahon said: “Jones is a local lad and the type we need: athletic, mobile and aggressive. We are hopeful Andrai will fit in with what we’re trying to achieve.
“He’s from Liverpool, a good, tough character, physically and mentally, the type we like to recruit and have around our squad.
“He was at Bury for the majority of his career and did not always get in the side for whatever reason.
“I think he has matured now and just needs an opportunity as an individual. As young players grow up their outlook in football, as in life, changes.
“They settle down and realise what it is they need to be doing as footballers. I think he will benefit from first-team experience here.”
Jones is not a total stranger to Prenton Park. He trained with Tranmere last season after a two-and-a-half year spell with Bury came to an end around the turn of the year.
Right backs were not a priority for Tranmere at the time.
The focus at Prenton Park then was to find creative and attacking players.
McMahon said: “We had Andrai training with us last season. Then Manchester United came along and he wanted to train with them. From there he went to Barnsley. We missed out on Andrai then but he was still on our radar.”
As a schoolboy growing up in Liverpool, Jones spent time in the youth academies at Everton and Preston North End.
He was playing local league football for Kingsley United in Toxteth when he joined Bury’s youth set up and turned professional with the Shakers in the summer of 2010.
He played 10 games for Bury in 2011/12 and nine games last season, the last of them in a 1-0 home defeat to Tranmere on New Year’s Day.
After joining Barnsley he played two Championship games for the Yorkshire club in April but has not been involved in the first team this season.
Jones said: “The squad Barnsley is getting bigger numbers wise and things have not gone for me as I hoped. Now I’m here at Tranmere I want to get as many first-team games as I can.”