“What a win that was then.” Words uttered in a unique brand of Scouse, just moments after the young man who said them scored the winning penalty in a Carabao Cup shootout victory over Arsenal.
It was the first truly big moment for Curtis Jones in a Liverpool shirt. We all knew he was a good academy prospect, but this was the first time that he had had a real impact on the first team, in front of a huge Anfield audience and a much, much bigger one worldwide.
This came in October 2019, just a couple of months before he truly exploded onto the scene with a 25-yard thunderbolt into the top corner to dump Everton out of the FA Cup in his first Merseyside Derby – what better way to endear yourself to Liverpool supporters?
Unsurprisingly, considering a wealth of options in the Reds’ midfield, first-team opportunities have been limited for the youngster from Toxteth. But there are signs that he is emerging as more of a useful option for Jürgen Klopp – Jones has appeared in eight competitive senior games already this term.
The latest came in the superb 3-0 victory over Leicester City – Jones’ first full 90 minutes in the Premier League. That is an important milestone in itself, but it’s even more impressive when you consider his performance, which demonstrated the extraordinary discipline and maturity that this 19-year-old has.
He was very tidy in possession – Jones completed 66 passes out of 72 and saw more of the ball than any other midfielder on either side – while also working hard to nullify Leicester’s threat on the counter.
More than that, the young Scouser was more of a threat in attacking areas than we have seen from him in previous outings. Only a few minutes into the game he had sprinted up the right side to get on the end of Diogo Jota’s ball through, and stung Kasper Schmeichel’s palms with a fierce drive. He also produced a delicious cross-field ball to Andy Robertson, before the Scot created the Reds’ second.
His obvious talent makes you wonder how, considering the British public and media’s tendency to place a huge amount of promise and pressure upon young players, Jones has managed to evade much of the hype which has been placed on the likes of Phil Foden, Mason Greenwood and Bukayo Saka in recent times.
Rivalries aside, all three of the aforementioned youngsters are supreme young talents, worthy of the expectation placed upon them. All three have also been involved in the senior England setup, while Jones is yet to be given that honour.Embed from Getty Images
But perhaps it’s far better this way. We have seen far too many “future stars” crumble under the weight of expectation placed upon them, and the last thing any of us want for Jones is for him to become yet another victim of the hype.
We’re perfectly content with him working away under the radar, doing his job in the first team when called upon and honing his skills under Klopp and his coaching staff on the training ground. It’s that trust from the manager, and the hard work between games, which will serve him best in his mission to become an Anfield regular.
We all know he has the talent. But let’s all hope he can make the step and show it week in, week out, rather than expecting him to.
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