Rotherham United boss Paul Warne has heaped praise on outgoing defender Billy Jones for his contribution at AESSEAL New York Stadium, citing the 33-year-old’s desire to make his family proud by staying on with the Millers on reduced terms last summer as an indicator of his commitment during his spell in South Yorkshire.
On Thursday evening, it was confirmed that Jones would return to boyhood club Crewe Alexandra on loan until the end of the season and with his current contract with the Millers set to expire in the summer, the loan until the end of the season means that Jones is unlikely to turn out in Rotherham United colours again.
Now 33, the Shrewsbury-born operator arrived in South Yorkshire with a wealth of experience in the top two divisions of English football, enjoying prolonged spells with Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion, before finding his way to the Stadium of Light with Sunderland.
Speaking following Jones’ departure, Warne revealed that the defender’s desire to play as high up the pyramid as possible in spite of other lucrative financial offers was a key factor in the Millers securing his signature in the first place.
"I remember when we signed him and the news came to us that he was available and he'd be interested in playing for us,” he recalled.
"Me and Rich couldn't believe he wanted to come and play for us with the career he'd had and the options he had at the time.
"His attitude was amazing and when we said goodbye to him, we both said to him how much of a joy he was as a footballer, how well he trained and how well he looked after himself.
"We were always honoured to have Bill, to be fair, he's had one of the best careers that a Rotherham player has had possibly.
"In fairness, this season, he was so keen to continue playing that he was one of the players taking home the least money in my squad. It wasn't about money for him.
"He had said to me that he wants his kids to be proud of him and see him play in Championship again, so he was always motivated by wanting to be a great role model for his family, which is a great inspiration for everyone."
Like Lewis Price, who has also departed the club this season, Jones may not always have been as involved on matchdays as manager or player would have liked, but boss Warne was quick to point to the benefits that his experience and professionalism around the training ground have had on the group since he joined.
"He's played with a few injuries over the last few years but he was always brilliant in the dressing room,” he continued.
“Like I've said to him, I'll miss him as a bloke. I always enjoyed having a conversation with him and a bit like Macca, he is a real good person for the younger pros look up to.
"He was never one minute's trouble for me. I'd ask if he could play a certain position and he'd say 'not a problem, I'll do what's best for the team'. You cannot have a better pro than that.”
Everyone at Rotherham United would like to thank Billy for his contribution during his spell at AESSEAL New York Stadium and wish him well for the future.