Rob Jones earned his legendary status at Easter Road by becoming only the third Hibernian player, after Pat Stanton and Murdo McLeod, to pick up silverware at Hampden Park.
In his three years at Easter Road, the 6ft 7in towering defender played 118 games, scoring twelve goals and joining a small band of fans' favourites. Jones scored the first goal of Hibernian's five in the CIS League Cup Final in 2007. Like Stanton, 'Big Rob' led by example, opening the scoring in the CIS League Cup final win over Kilmarnock on a memorable day in March 2007.
Rob joined the professional ranks comparatively late, although he was on York City's books as a schoolboy where he played initially as a centre forward before being moved to left back. After becoming disillusioned, Rob, ignoring father Tom's advice, gave up the senior game and became a teacher, playing part time non-league football with Northern Premier League side Whitby Town, before moving to Northallerton Town of the Northern League for the 1999–2000 season. He then returned to the Northern Premier League with Spennymoor United towards the end of the season.
In the summer of 2001, Jones then moved to Gateshead where he caught the eye of senior teams by scoring an impressive 19 goals from 87 appearances. One admirer was former Chelsea manager John Hollins who was Director of Football with Stockport County, and he recommended Rob to manager Carlton Palmer who signed him for £5000.
Rob made his professional debut on 9 August 2003 aged 23, in a 1–0 defeat against Wycombe Wanderers, and his first full season saw him make 16 appearances for County, plus one on loan for Macclesfield Town.
After a year at Edgeley Park, Rob signed on a free transfer for Russell Slade's Grimsby Town, making his debut on the opening day of the season in a 1–0 away defeat against Darlington.
During his first year at Blundell Park Rob struggled to cement his place in the first team, but he made his mark the following season, starring in a famous 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspurs in the League Cup, which ended in him being carried off the pitch by jubilant Grimsby fans.
Grimsby made the play-offs but lost the final 1-0 to Cheltenham Town, ending the season on a disappointing note, although there was some consolation for Rob who was voted Fans' Player of the Year.
The failure to win promotion saw several players depart the club in the close season, and Hibs boss Tony Mowbray, who knew a thing or two about the attributes required for a centre half had no hesitation in offering Rob a four year contract at Easter Road, paying Grimsby Town an undisclosed fee.
Rob was an important piece in Mowbray's jigsaw, and quickly became a fans' favourite forming a solid partnership with Chris Hogg in the heart of the defence.
This period included the 'golden generation' of youngsters who had come through the ranks, such as Scott Brown, Steven Whittaker, Kevin Thompson, and Steven Fletcher, along with bargain buys such as Guillaume Beuzelin, Dean Shiels, David Murphy, Michael Stewart, Ivan Sproule and Moroccan pair Abdessalam Benjelloun and Merouane Zemmama which made Hibs a formidable outfit.
With crowds at a 34 year high, and Hibs playing a brand of fast attractive football, it wasn't surprising that wealthier clubs would take notice, and sure enough, West Bromwich Albion came calling, although on this occasion their target was not a player, but manager Tony Mowbray. A month later, John Collins was appointed manager and Rob ensured that he started his managerial career with a victory scoring the only goal against Hearts in the quarter final of the CIS League Cup, in a game that Hibs dominated from start to finish.
As usual, the youngsters' potential did not go un-noticed and in January 2007, skipper Thompson joined former team-mates Ian Murray, Derek Riordan and Gary Caldwell in Glasgow. Thankfully, Hibs were able to resist other bids, and Collins appointed Rob team captain.
On March 18 2007, Rob led out a Hibs team who gave one of the finest performances ever seen at Hampden Park, beating Jim Jeffries' Kilmarnock 5-1. The opening goal came midway through the first half, and the snow had just started to fall when Hibs won a corner on the left. David Murphy crossed the ball to the back post where Rob met it perfectly, out-jumping marker Colin Nish and heading the ball into the net sparking mayhem amongst the Hibs fans.
Jones lift the CIS League Cup trophy in front of the Hibernian fans at Hampden Park in 2007 (pic: SNS)
Four more goals, two each for 'Fletch' and 'Benji' ensured the cup was destined for the capital. There was a final twist as the fans waited for the trophy presentation, as Rob generously shared the honour of picking up the cup with Scott Brown who had delayed his transfer for this moment.
As 'Sunshine on Leith' blared out of the Hampden loudspeakers, many in the Hibs end were forecasting a cup double but unfortunately, the youngsters ran out of steam and lost the Scottish Cup semi-final against Dunfermline after a replay.
Financial requirements saw Scott Brown, Steven Whittaker, David Murphy and later Steven Fletcher leave the club as the cup winning squad was broken up, and John Collins was replaced by Mixu Paatelainen.
Inevitably, losing such quality players meant that results and performances suffered, although during Rob's tenure in Leith, the team consistently finished in the top 6.
In his three years at Easter Road, the 6ft 7in defender played 118 games, scoring twelve goals and joining a small band of fans' favourites, including 'Jimmy O'Rourke, Mickey Weir and Keith Wright who had the distinction of having their own song. Rob's was 'Always believe in Rob Jones: he's indestructible,' to the tune of Spandau Ballet's 'Gold'.
With a year left on his contract, Rob made it known that he was keen to return to England, sparking interest from a number of clubs including Leeds United, Derby County, Nottingham Forest, Colchester United, Bristol City and Swansea. He eventually signed for Scunthorpe United for an undisclosed "club record" fee, and left with the best wishes of everyone at Easter Road.
After 44 games for the Iron, in March 2011, Rob fulfilled a lifetime's ambition signing an emergency loan deal with boyhood heroes Sheffield Wednesday until the end of the season. His performances were rewarded with a two year contract by manager Gary Megson who had no hesitation in making Rob the team captain.
Wednesday won promotion as runners up, but Rob decided his future lay in another part of South Yorkshire, and joined League 1 side Doncaster Rovers under Dean Saunders. When Saunders left to take over Wolves, Rob was given a player/coach role under former Wales manager Bryan Flynn.