Phil Jones looked destined to be a top class centre-back long before his Premier League debut in 2010, a successful, accomplished and widely acclaimed man-marking job on Didier Drogba for Blackburn Rovers at home to Chelsea. This performance came only weeks after his eighteenth birthday, but his club had long since seen his potential, the previous month signing him to a five year deal with a £16m release clause.
He would make twelve appearances in all competitions for Rovers in the 2009/10 season. The following campaign would, however, give a glimpse at one of the reasons why, some four years later, he remains a flawed and incomplete defender, yet to fulfil the potential that would eventually entice Sir Alex Ferguson to meet his buyout clause in the summer of 2011. In an injury-hit season he managed to make 26 appearances for Rovers, but the majority would be in an unfamiliar holding midfield role. It highlighted Jones’ versatility, which would arguably go on to be a factor in his career stalling.
The following summer came the United move, Jones reportedly taking the call from Ferguson in a car en route to sign for Liverpool. For the player the choice was a no-brainer and the car diverted towards M16. His new manager would later claim to have had an eye on Jones for years in the junior ranks at Blackburn and his interest had been sealed by a fine performance against his new employers in the 1-1 draw at Ewood Park which sealed United a 19th league title. Rovers’ owners Venky’s would temporarily delay the transfer as they displayed a remarkable lack of understanding of football contract law, before he jetted off to Denmark for the European Under-21 championship. England struggled at the tournament and exited at the group stage, but with Jones restored to centre-back alongside fellow Manchester United defender Chris Smalling, the two would form the most impressive defensive partnership at the tournament. You could forgive the fans of their club for thinking that they were witnessing the natural heirs to Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, whilst England appeared to have the cornerstones of their defence for the next decade.
To read the rest of this article click here