Rover ready for action
Thursday, 02 September, 2010
Blackburn's Phil Jones hopes to continue club form in Portugal.
Phil Jones was just 17 years old when he made his First Team debut for Blackburn Rovers last year and a solid performance led to Manager Sam Allardyce calling the defender a ‘shining light’ as Rovers beat Nottingham Forest in the League Cup last September.
His international debut for England’s U19s in November followed, then in March came his first start in the Premier League against Champions-elect Chelsea. Having turned 18 a month earlier, his display against the Blues had Allardyce cooing once again: “It was an outstanding performance from the young man,” he said following the 1-1 draw at Ewood Park.
Soon the Preston-born youngster had established himself as a First Team regular, finishing the 2009-10 campaign with a dozen appearances. And he’s continued his progression this season, too, playing in all four matches.
“I’ve surprised myself really, but I’ll take the opportunity when it comes and I’ve been pleased to be given the chance at Blackburn,” Jones told TheFA.com. “Playing regularly in the First Team is great for me and it’s something I want to keep doing, but I have to keep working hard.
"It was weird the first time I started in a Premier League game and it’s obviously quicker than reserve football, but once you play a few games you adapt to the style of play in the Premier League and I feel more comfortable now.
"When you’re playing with good players it makes you become a better player. Making the step up wasn’t too bad, but the pace of the game is something you notice."
But not content with making a breakthrough with his boyhood club, he’s also made the step in to England’s Under-21s, after receiving his first call-up from Stuart Pearce for last month’s friendly win over Uzbekistan.
“It’s great to play for your country at any level so to be called up and make my debut last month was a really good experience,” he said as he prepared for Friday’s encounter with Portugal.
“I thought the performance in Bristol was a good one, too, and although they weren’t the strongest team we’ll face, you still have to perform. I think we did that very well and deserved to win the game.
“Playing for the Under-21s is a massive thing for me and I’m really pleased to be here. Representing England is always at the back of your mind as a player, but first and foremost you have to play well for your club and put in performances, and anything from there is a bonus really.”
He continued: “The first time I was called up for England was for the U19s game against Turkey at Scunthorpe and it came as a bit of a shock. You think ‘wow, international honours’. But it makes you feel good as you must be doing something right if you’ve been called up for your country, so I went there full of confidence.
“I felt at home playing for them, and really enjoyed the game. Then I went to Ukraine and played in the Qualifiers and helped the team reach the Finals in France.”
This week he’s in Portugal, hoping to help another England team reach a major Championship, although he is well aware of the size of the task in front of the Three Lions.
Pearce’s side must collect maximum points from their double-header this week; in Barcelos against the Portuguese on Friday and then in Colchester against Lithuania on Tuesday. Two wins would see England finish Group Nine on 17 points and hopefully be in contention for a place in the play-offs as one of four best runners-up in qualifying.
“Portugal is a massive game and we have to win, then we have to win on Tuesday. But this is a great group of lads, loads of quality in this team, so if anyone can do it, we can.
"We’re training really well and the lads look sharp so hopefully we can take that into the game on Friday night.”