Always a bridesmaid, never the bride: such is the lot in life of a back-up 'keeper. It's an important supporting role that can't go unplayed on the big day, and yet if you end up taking centre stage at the expense of the star of the show, it means something has gone horribly wrong.
Unlike the average perpetual bridesmaid, a back-up 'keeper is usually far more accepting of his fate. He knows he won't see much time off the bench, but must stay both fit and sharp enough to pinch hit when the moment comes.
Due to some injury spells for Pepe Reina, Brad Jones has managed to significantly increase his playing time this season. When Reina is fit, Jones is back on the bench, but this hasn't dampened Jones' spirits nor put him off thinking about a long career. Having just turned thirty-one last week, Jones spoke with the club's website about hoping to play until he turns forty.
"There are plenty of 'keepers about that are in and around that age and if you can do it, you've got to make the most of it and play for as long as you can because once it's gone, it's gone and that's it - it just becomes a memory," Jones said. "You might as well play for as long as you can, so if I can get to 40 and still be playing then brilliant."
Citing the likes of Brad Friedel and mentor Mark Schwarzer as examples of active middle-aged players currently plying their trade in net, Jones isn't wrong that there is definitely precedent for 'keepers having longer than average careers. That Friedel and Schwarzer both started far more regularly in the last few seasons than Jones has is perhaps not Jones' main point of inspiration, but it can't hurt to look to them as players whose prolonged careers allowed them to keep younger 'keepers out of the starting line-up for quite some time. Jones thinks physical fitness is key to this kind of longevity.
"There are definitely things you can do," said Jones. "Strength and conditioning is one of them. If your body is in good shape, then you've got more chance of not being injured. As a goalkeeper, you're taking a lot of knocks every day and the floor doesn't get any softer! A lot of strength work and good luck is the key, I think."
Despite the miracle cure that is Liverpool's new individual training regimens, Jones has still managed to pick up a few of his own injuries during training sessions this season. Still, Jones has done an adequate if not awe-inspiring job deputizing for Pepe Reina this year, and at the end of the day he seems perfectly content to pass the torch back to Reina every time the Spaniard returns from injury. While his play could improve in some areas, when it comes to attitude there's very little more one could expect of a club's number two 'keeper.