Phil Jones: The Man to Lead Next Generation of England National Team Talent

Even the scoring of a comical own goal can not lessen the potential impact the Old Trafford youngster can have on the long term development of the England international set-up.

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Perhaps the role of captaincy in football does not hold the same responsibility and associate itself with the strength of judgment as the position does in say, cricket, where the captain is the on-field manager, but it is nonetheless an important one for any team. In the 2010-11 season of the Premier League, a Manchester City side showing all the promise of money well spent and which played some very attractive football lacked obvious leadership with Carlos Tevez leading his men to third in the table. This season, with the consistently impressive Vincent Kompany wearing the armband, City look a much more organised unit, as shown by their leading of the top flight at Christmas for the first time in 81 years.

The role of England captain, however, means much more than just the motivator, the man with the plan on the field that it does in the domestic game. The list of England captains through time reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of English football, men who were the icons of their respective era on and off the field: Bobby Moore, Alan Shearer, David Beckham, Billy Wright, Gary Lineker and…..John Terry? Is the big Chelsea man the perfect candidate to add to this list of sporting greats?

Despite having lead the Three Lions out 30 times in his career, the Barking-born centre back has never been too far from controversy. In March 2009, Terry’s mother and mother-in-law were arrested for shoplifting up to £800 worth of goods. In April 2010, his father was caught selling cocaine in a bar near his home. Albeit that neither of these offences were committed by Terry himself, it does lead to questions as to whether the 31-year old is suitable to a role previously near-synonymous with ‘national hero’.

However, in January 2010 not even a super-injunction could stop the news breaking that Terry had been having an affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the ex-girlfriend of Chelsea and England teammate Wayne Bridge, leading to the latter’s resignation from international duties. Follow this up with allegations of racism against Anton Ferdinand, QPR defender and brother of Terry’s England teammate Rio, and you have to wonder if he has all the makings of a sporting role model to be remembered for the right reasons.

But hypothetically, say Capello, or his successor from June of this year, removes Terry from the role; who stands out as a replacement? Rio Ferdinand took over the role following the Bridge accusations but he has recently lost his place in the England side to Bolton centre half Gary Cahill, as well as struggling to hold down a first-team place in the Manchester United backline with the wealth of young talented defenders coming through the Old Trafford ranks. When Ferdinand missed out on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa due to injury, Liverpool star Steven Gerrard stepped in only to lead the side to a last-16 defeat to Germany after an uninspiring group stage performance.

Phil Jones is undoubtedly a fantastic prospect for English football, as shown by the fantastic displays for Blackburn Rovers last year that led to Sir Alex Ferguson activating the £16million clause the defender had in his contract. On the pitch, he shows a maturity, composure, vision and level-headedness on the big stages which belie his 19 years. Jones already has 3 full England caps to his name, and no doubt has a big part to play in future successes at international level. Indeed, many believe that he has the potential to captain the Three Lions in years to come. But the final four words of that sentence are four big words. For now, Jones is still a young man, having only made his Premier League debut in the last 24 months.

With Jones amongst a host of bright English prospects maturing rapidly that includes Chris Smalling, Kyle Walker, Jack Rodwell, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Ross Barkley, the future of English football appears very strong, and I for one, hope to see Manchester United’s most regular performer this season mature into the man that can lead the Three Lions to success and join the likes of Sir Bobby Moore, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer into the list of all-time greats to have been bestowed with one of football’s most coveted positions of authority.

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