Manchester United and England star centre-back Phil Jones has heaped praise on the young players at Roy Hodgson’s disposal this World Cup, claiming that they’ve added excitement to the team.
At 22 Jones isn’t exactly a senior member of the squad yet himself, but he still took the time our to offer his opinion to the official FIFA website over just how good England’s young lions could be this summer. Hodgson’s squad contains a healthy mix of raw talent and top-end pedigree, but Jones believes it’s the likes of Luke Shaw and Raheem Sterling who people will be watching with the most anticipation.
The Three Lions, who have been dealt a tough hand by way of being drawn in a group with Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica, have had their chances kept uncharacteristically low by the vast majority of their fan base, but Jones believes the inclusions of some of the Premier League’s brightest young players bodes well for the team.
The United man said: “The players that have come through - the likes of Raheem [Sterling], Luke [Shaw], and let's not forget Jon Flanagan and John Stones, who have been terrific this season as well - I think there's a real excitement about those players.
"They've come to light in the last year or two and they've done terrifically well. I think everyone's hoping that they can produce on this stage and we know they can. The ability they have got is enormous and hopefully they can produce it on the big stage.”
Of course what’s even more interesting is that Jones could well be playing alongside Shaw at club level, if the mainstream press is to be believed. Speculation has consistently rumbled on since the end of last season inferring that the Southampton starlet is poised to make an Old Trafford switch for around £27million, and a deal could be finalised post-World Cup, providing Shaw suffers no major injuries.
The Red Devils are drastically looking to improve their squad after the tumultuous regime of David Moyes, and Louis van Gaal has been selected as the ideal candidate to fix the current problem by way of sorting out the good from the bad. Whilst it’s more that certain that Jones finds himself in the former of those two categories, the ex-Blackburn man will now most probably be pushing transfer rumours aside to concentrate on his own preparations for the tournament ahead.
Though Hodgson’s pre-World Cup friendlies hinted that he would side with the experienced duo of Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill at the heart of England’s back line, accompanied by Glen Johnson on the right hand side, Jones’ versatility is a trait which should see him jump ahead of the likes of Chris Smalling in the queue to be first in line to fill any necessary void. Capable of competently performing across the midfield as well, the United youngster could be tasked with performing man-marking duties on some of the world’s top players should England qualify for the knockout stages.