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Faith is the key for Yeovil's Nathan Jones
The commitment that the Glovers' left-back has to Christianity isn't immediately obvious when you meet him - unless it happens to be post-match and he's got his shirt off. But the mercurial Welshman is always happy to talk about his faith.
'The Creation of Adam' - Michaelangelo / Jones
Nathan Jones currently has four tattoos - praying hands and the crucifixion on his left bicep and forearm, Jesus Christ on his right bicep, and Michaelangelo's 'The Creation of Adam' across his back.
He'd like to get a fifth because he's finding the tattoos somewhat addictive and he's got space on his right forearm.
But the subject matter is something he's chosen carefully: "I think when you have a tattoo it has to be something symbolic and meaningful to yourself because obviously you're stuck with them for the rest of your life," said the 35 year-old.
"I didn't want to think in years to come 'oh, I've made a mistake there' so something that's relevant to my faith is going to be with me for the rest of my life, so that's what I've had."
The tattoos are a reasonably new addition - the first was done in 2006 - but the Christian faith has been a big part of Nathan's life and career for as long as he can remember. But how does it square with his life as a professional footballer?
"You have ups and downs in sport," he says. "It's not all fast cars and women, you know, being a footballer. I think it's given me a level head.
"With my playing career I've been immensely blessed to come from the background I did. To come from a mining community and be a footballer for nigh on 17 years was something I could only ever have dreamed of and I feel amazingly blessed."
This was the first of Nathan's tattoos
His faith has helped Nathan through all sorts of bad times, from losing the League One Play-off Final at Wembley with Yeovil Town in 2007 to the period early in his career playing for Numancia in Spain. Then, it helped him overcome being away from his family, feeling homesick and struggling to learn the language.
"It keeps you grounded. There's a lot of temptations, a lot of pitfalls nowadays, especially for a sportsman – and I think through God's guidance I've been able to steer clear of them.
"Through the hard times I've always had the stability of the Lord in my life and my family background has kept me on the straight and narrow."
Prayer and worship
The church that Nathan belongs to is back home in South Wales, so he mainly worships at home in Somerset. But he has enjoyed attending services at the Elim church in Yeovil:
Nathan's faith played a part against Forest
"I started going there because the (Yeovil Town) chaplain, Jim (Pearce), is the pastor there. I went there the other day to give my testimony and thoroughly enjoyed that and that helped raise money."
So how does he incorporate his faith into preparing for football matches?
"99% of days I start off with prayer and reading, which is something that starts the day off well. I need that to start the day off. Now I've grown in the faith I believe I'm blessed and protected, and watched over and things."
Yeovil's Twelfth Man?
Nathan finds strength in God on all sorts of occasions - most notably in two of the biggest matches of his career, when Yeovil met Nottingham Forest in the League One play-off semi-finals:
"I was captain of the team and we played Forest here and they were chanting in the tunnel and things. I felt it my duty to get back in their faces and I gave away a penalty.
"I went and spoke to God and I got a reading that just kept coming up from the Bible: "Be Still and Know That I Am God" and that's all I had all week.
"A tattoo has to be symbolic and meaningful"
"When they did it in the away game I just kept quiet. And obviously we won the game and had a magnificent performance and I felt I had strength all through the game.
"I do believe everything is God's will. I've scored own goals, at Scunthorpe and things, but you just keep believing. You never let it get you down.
"It's just the ups and downs of being a footballer and coupled with God's strength you can cope with those and I've been able to."
Christians in Sport
Throughout his career, Nathan's team-mates have given him the occasional bit of stick about being a Christian but by and large he's found them very helpful.
Linvoy Primus - a high-profile Christian
He's recently been pleased to encounter fellow Christians within football - quite a high profile one in the shape of Portsmouth defender Linvoy Primus, and also Adebayo Akinfenwa who trained with Yeovil before signing for Millwall.
And Nathan would like to see more Christians involved in sport be a little bit more public about their faith:
"I don't think people are scared or hiding or anything, but people get on with their Christianity and get on with their life and don't pray in people's faces.
"I think it's coming to the fore a little bit now, and hopefully I can do as much as I can to promote Christianity in football."
BBC West Footballer of the Year Adrian Basso
So Nathan was pleased to hear from team-mate Marcus Stewart that, at the BBC West Sports Awards in December, Bristol City's Brazilian goalkeeper Adriano Basso dedicated his Footballer of the Year award to God. "I would like to speak to him," said the Welshman. "He seems quite a switched-on human being to be honest."
"I've played against him and he's done very well at Bristol City. Someone who's ready to talk openly about their faith is always something positive in my book."
Football or religion?
The world of sport has sometimes conflicted with Nathan's faith - particularly while growing up when he wasn't allowed to play football on Sundays. At the age of 16, his Mum gave him the choice about whether to carry on with his faith, but there was no contest:
"If you've lived 16 years with Christ then it's impossible to turn away really," he says. "I feel amazingly blessed and Christ loves me and I can be a Christian and I can worship. It's a big thing for me."
These days, Nathan finds himself reconciled to playing on Sundays, partly because of his experience playing for Numancia:
"I believe that God took me to Spain. And they play every Sunday. You don't play Saturdays, you don't play midweek, you play Sunday."
Nathan celebrates reaching the Play-off Final
"I believe God's guiding my career and I don't believe God would have taken me out there and said "well, you can't play". And now a lot of the big showpiece games are on Sundays so I go to God and if God doesn't want me to play in these games then I don't get to play-off finals."
"I believe I go to God and say "I need to do that, I still keep the Sabbath day." If God didn't want me to play in these games then I would say. And God's not giving me anything that I shouldn't play in them - and if he did then I wouldn't play."
last updated: 10/12/2007 at 08:53
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