6 Mar 2012

The Curious Case of Phil Jones

All aboard the Phil Jones bandwagon. The fare is free and its easy to climb aboard, good luck trying to locate a seat. Once aboard you will happily engage in conversation with other Manchester United supporters about how Phil Jones is the new Duncan Edwards, or the new Bryan Robson. Somebody will even go as far as to say that Jones is without doubt the future England and United captain,
Before long, you too will be a fully subscribed member to the most hyped up footballer in years.

Does any of this sound familiar to you ?

This is the curious case of Phil Jones, a player who is supposedly "that good" Sir Alex Ferguson does not even know where to play him, because apparently he can play anywhere! There is no doubting that he has potential, and at only 20 could develop into a good player, but I found the hype surrounding his switch to Old Trafford pretty baffling to be honest.

I am not comfortable with so many United fans agreeing with the media's perception of him, that he is the new Duncan Edwards or the new Bryan Robson. It's uncertain what the player makes of the comparisons that are being made, I imagine he is quietly flattered by them and maybe even embarrassed.

I don't think it's fair to create so much hype and put huge expectation on a young player who before signing for United, had actually only made 35 professional first team appearances for his previous club Blackburn Rovers. I must admit I had not heard much about Jones before he moved to United, but after signing him for a fee believed to be around £16million, and reading the kind and encouraging words the English press had to say about him, like many supporters I was excited.

Any player that is talked about and speculated as being a mixture of Duncan Edwards and Bryan Robson must be an amazing talent right?

The comparisons with the two United greats can only be compared with a few attributes Phil Jones has in my opinion. He has the physical presence and strength of a Duncan Edwards, and we have seen him make a few powerful, driving runs with the ball from deep inside his own half, something that Bryan Robson did so often for the reds, but I am afraid that they are the only things I have witnessed that would cause somebody to compare him to the two.

Jones has been tried and tested in a few positions already in his United career, and like many including Sir Alex Ferguson who brought him to the club, I am actually unsure and confused as to what  his best and strongest position in the side is.

He has looked shaky and lacking in confidence when playing in central defence, which is supposedly his preferred position, not very convincing at right back, and I do not see his long term place in the team being in the centre of midfield. So suddenly the best young English talent this country has to offer, does not actually have a position that he and the manager are confident of him excelling in.

We have all heard of players being hyped up in the past, and it seems to be predominately English players. Why? Because English players carry the weight and expectation for the national side who have continually failed at international level.

Not since Wayne Rooney have I heard of an English player being hyped up and speculated about so much. I remember the English press once labelled Joe Cole "The new Paul Gascoigne", Cole is currently playing in France on loan trying to revive his career after a disastrous spell at Liverpool, following the decision by Chelsea to let the player leave Stamford Bridge on a free transfer. This is a clear example of the English media putting too much pressure on a young player, this can stifle a players promise and potential especially if that individual starts to believe his own hype. 

It's impossible to predict if Phil Jones will live up to all the hype that currently surrounds him. If he becomes anything like the players he has been compared to, he will retire a Manchester United legend.

I still believe that Edwards plus Robson does not equal Phil Jones, he carries the weight of expectation for both his club and his country on his shoulders and seems like a big enough personality to carry it. For the time being though, I remain apprehensive and slightly sceptical about a player who's best position in the team remains uncertain, and for that reason I will not be joining the large number of supporters who are already on the Phil Jones bandwagon.

@KevinAshford7