HARTLEPOOL United may be battling for survival at the bottom of the Football League, but young defender Dan Jones says he is “loving” being in the side.
Jones has quickly established himself as an integral member of boss Ronnie Moore’s starting line-up and the 20-year-old has been strongly praised since the manager took charge last month.
He is on a steep learning curve, though, with Pools – nine points from safety in League Two – battling for every point they can get their hands on.
Jones came up through the ranks at Pools, starting off as a centre-back in the youth set-up before being moved to the left-back slot because he is left-footed.
But he is now back playing in his natural position – and Jones said: “I am loving it at the moment because all I want to be doing is playing football.
“I see my best position at centre-back and I like to watch the full game and think I read the game quite well.
“I don’t mind playing left-back and that is obviously the position in which I came into the team, but I am loving my role in the middle.
“I started out as a centre-back and then got moved to the left because I was left-footed and there weren’t very many in the youth squad.”
Jones was handed his first start of the season by caretaker boss Sam Collins in the 2-1 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat at home to Sheffield United back in October.
He lost his place in the side when Paul Murray got the manager’s job, but he has bounced back strongly under new gaffer Moore.
The Sedgefield-born youth team graduate partnered Matthew Bates in central defence before the club brought Scott Harrison back from Sunderland on loan until the end of the season.
Pools are keen to tie Harrison down to a permanent deal sooner rather than later in order to free up a loan spot in the squad.
The pair struck up an instant chemistry in the recent 2-0 home win over Cheltenham, but the defence collapsed after half-time at Shrewsbury last weekend, with Pools conceding three.
Jones, though, has been one of the few players to be praised by Moore since he arrived at the club and the defender is enjoying life under the manager.
“I have played under a few managers this season, but I am really enjoying playing under the gaffer,” Jones said.
“Obviously I am playing – which helps – but he doesn’t take any prisoners.
“He says what he thinks and the gaffer is strict but fair.
“If you do something wrong then he will tell you, but if you do something right then he will praise you for it.
“It is nice to hear the gaffer thinks I have been doing well, but I am keeping my feet firmly on the ground.”