Jones is England’s big hope

Trevor Steven
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Versatile youngster has shown Capello he is ready to play

FABIO CAPELLO made good use of the international double-header, in which his England side revealed strengths we did not know they had and showed glimpses of further improvements to come.

Against Spain in particular Capello learned the valuable lesson that England can be disciplined and resist being pulled out of position.

He realised they weren’t going to have the possession they enjoy from lesser teams, and they showed doggedness and resolve in beating the world champions.

As encouraging as that and Tuesday’s win over Sweden were, however, England still have huge issues in keeping the ball, and the possession was woeful at times.

We lag far behind so many teams in the accuracy of our passing and using first touch to move away from the opposition because we neglect those qualities in favour of drilling youngsters in athleticism and playing at a high tempo.

That can’t be reversed in time for next summer’s European Championships, but it would be possible to raise our game dramatically.

Passing back to the goalkeeper is the plague of English football. We don’t make enough effort to make an angle and the resulting long ball makes it a bunfight for possession. That has to improve. We need to focus on getting centre-backs comfortable on the ball so they can step out without panicking and penetrate. It poses the opposition problems by forcing them to decide whether to close down or stick with their man.

Spain’s Gerard Pique is a master, Rio Ferdinand used to be quite good at it, and my old international colleague Mark Wright was excellent.

Phil Jones could perform that role all day long, but then I like him in midfield, where he looked very much at home against Spain and Sweden.

He is a real all-rounder, with pace and an instinct of when to use it, as he showed with his 50-yard burst against Sweden – something England could really use in their armoury.

He may not have the goalscoring ability of Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard but, by the way he took his narrowly-missed chance, looks well on the way to becoming a composed finisher.

Long-term he could well be a replacement for Scott Parker in the holding midfield role, but Jones is a better passer already, in my opinion, and I’d have him ahead of the Tottenham man in my starting line-up for Euro 2012.


Joe Hart, Scott Carson

Kyle Walker, Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill

Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones, Scott Parker, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Theo Walcott, Ashley Young, Stewart Downing

Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent, Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll