The boy Jones rises to the occasion to show why he is England's coming man


Podgorica City Stadium

The comparisons between Phil Jones and Duncan Edwards, which began in a casual conversation between Sir Bobby Charlton and Paddy Crerard a month or so back, are premature, of course, much though the 19-year-old's composure always makes him look like the rock in a raging sea which Edwards always was.

No. Where Jones is concerned, the more apposite comparison is the one Sam Allardyce always made when he'd perch on the touchline of the blustery training pitches at Blackburn's Brockhall training ground. It became a standing joke that he'd always call Jones "John Terry" then and he made the comparison publicly after the teenager's commanding debut display in a difficult, attritional match against Chelsea which also had the opposition enthusing about the young man's barreling tackles in the dressing room afterwards.

That was only 18 months ago and last night came a challenge to test even the teenager's appetite for the toughest of them: an England debut at right-back, a position in which Jones had lined up in only once for his 37 career Premier League starts. Jones didn't flinch when asked by Sir Alex Ferguson to fill the position against Bolton last month. The former Balshaws High School pupil, who was still living with his parents in Leyland until this summer, revealed himself as an improbable marauding wing-back, crossing for Wayne Rooney to tap in one of his side's five goals. But a narrow bumpy pitch in eastern Europe, teeming rain, firecrackers and, in Stevan Jovetic, an opponent known in the Fiorentine city where he plays his club football as the best thing since Roberto Baggio – is on another level to a Saturday afternoon at the Reebok. Never mind that this was also the night England needed to set their seal on qualification.

Terry, the player who has spoken so honestly about Jones as the one who "I am looking over my shoulder at", had been in Jones's shoes once upon a time. A febrile foreign atmosphere and England needing a point to qualify for the 2004 finals is what the young Londoner encountered in Turkey when Rio Ferdinand's controversial suspension delivered Terry his third start for England. And though this stadium was no Istanbul cauldron, the individuals bearing down the left flank – the Montenegrins' preferred route of attack – were at least as challenging as those which Terry faced eight years back.

The evidence of Jones's composure arrived before any player in red and yellow had run at him, when the marauding wing-back of the Reebok revealed himself again. Vladimir Bozovic barely seemed to exist as Jones powered past him and lofted a cross which Mladen Bozovic almost fumbled into his own net inside two minutes. It would have been one of the fastest goals a new England defender has ever scored.

The boot was soon on the other foot, as Jones knew it would be from the minute he saw Jovetic and his flowing locks line up against him. The game wasn't 10 minutes old before Jones was flat on his backside on the greasy turf, Simon Vukcevic danced around him playing in Mirko Vucinic, the individual England knew most threatened them.

It was Scott Parker, rather than Terry, who contributed most to seeing Jones through this baptism, though. Parker's interventions when Montenegro threatened his flank contributed again to the sense that England might have fared better last summer had Fabio Capello appreciated his ability sooner.

The picture wasn't quite as pretty where Theo Walcott is concerned. The sight of Jones, gesturing to him where he ought to have been, revealed a teenage debutant wise beyond his years. Walcott cast a glance at Capello after one of Jones's corrective messages. The manager's signal confirmed that the 19-year-old had had it right.

The challenge was fairly unceasing. It took some sangfroid for Jones to duck into a ball cast long across the field for Jovetic, with the danger man lurking on his shoulder, to head it back to the safety of Joe Hart. He also got a break with one of his less precise challenges on Jovetic in the penalty area at 2-1.

It was a clear glimpse of the future, though. Jones is too assured a centre-half to be anything other than that when England take a heavy weight of expectations into another tournament next summer. In next month's friendlies with Spain and probably Portugal, expect him to shuffle five yards into the boots Gary

Cahill filled last night, now that his pedigree is assured.

For now, though, he has revealed his fearlessness. "One of my strong points is that, no matter what anyone says about me, it will not affect me," Jones said this summer. "It's because I believe in my ability and what I can achieve." The grounds for this confidence are patently clear. Allardyce called it right.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent