Its going to be an interesting summer with Rovers players being linked with moves elsewhere. The press love a good story and at this time of the season they link just about anyone with any club hoping that a few weeks down the line that they can say "We brought it to you first a few months back".
Samba and Jones are both being linked with big money moves as the so called bigger clubs look to rebuild for the new season. However its Phil Jones who I wish to write about.
Its around 18 months ago that the talented young defender made the breakthrough into the first team when former Manager Sam Allardyce took it upon himself to take a closer look at the Academy and the Reserves, Rovers had a few injury problems at the time and Big Sam was looking at what defenders we had at the club who could perhaps act as cover for the first team. The young boy from Leyland was the man Sam selected which at the time came as a surprise to so many, as other players from the younger ranks had shown far more ability and looked much closer to potential first team action at either Rovers or indeed on loan at a lower division club. Jones was a unknown quantity and being only 17 at the time many thought it was just Sam giving a young player an early opportunity to be part of a first team match day. I think its fair to say no-one would of expected the impact Jones would have on the First team and such a tender age, but due to circumstances he was thrust into first team action immediately and acquitted himself very well against the likes of Drogba. His early performances had tongues wagging around the Premiership especially as his early appearances where in front of the Sky Camera's. Already despite a handful of appearances teams like Arsenal where being linked with a big money move for the youngster. England recognition was soon forthcoming as Jones was named in the under 21 squad, and his value was inflating daily in the National press.
Last season Jones started life in centre midfield as Big Sam wanted to add another string to his bow and he did not look out of place, at just 18 he was playing regular Premiership football and the scouts continued to flock to Ewood. Following Sam's sacking Jones suffered a nasty injury which looked to have ended his season. This coincided with Rovers terrible form as the club edged closer to the relegation zone. Following Jone's earlier than anticipated return Rovers form improved remarkably and our Prem status was secured for another year.
Now all the talk is where will Jones be come August? Venky's have already stated the club no longer needs to sell players and that includes Jones. Rumours are that Steve Kean will have between £5 and £10 Million to spend this summer, it is also rumoured that any funds the club can generate from sales will also be given to Kean to improve the squad. Now here Lie's the question, with £10 million can Rovers realistically expect to be pushing for Europe in the 2011-2012 season? I would confidently say that is unlikely
However if Jones was to be sold and we had a war chest of £30 million then I would say that it would be a good possibility. My reasoning behind this is we could by 4 top players with £30 million whilst with just the £10 million on offer at present we may just sign last seasons loans. Jones is a good player, but is he just that? Rovers squad is currently lacking any real quality and maybe its more we want to believe he is the great hope, than him actually being so. As already mentioned other players were ahead of him at Rovers Academy but it was Jones who was given the chance. If Gunning had been given the same chance and had not been loaned out and ended the season at Motherwell maybe we would be having the same speculation about him today. As an individual who has seen both play at youth level, Gunning always stood out.
£20 Million good business or not? I would see this as great business for Rovers, Jones undoubtedly has potential but would you part with £20 million for potential when you could perhaps buy the finished product for much less elsewhere. Over the years our modern game has seen so many players being dubbed "The next Gazza" or "Next Shearer" but so many have fallen off the map after being in the spotlight for a couple of years. Player like Francis Jeffers, who went to Arsenal for Big Money, scored for England on his debut then suddenly fell back to Earth with a bang, and now at the age of 30 has no club after once again being released.
Jones has been a big plus for Rovers this year after so many off the squad have failed miserably to produce the goods, Its been a season where our young players have come to the fore and have put many seasoned Pro's to shame with their application.
The thing with young players is they have the hunger to succeed, but its down to the Management to decide if they are ready for the first team or surplus to requirements.
I today asked England under 21 Goalkeeper Frank Fielding -Who in your time at the academy at Rovers was regarded our best player or future prospect?
His answer - Joe garner was class when we were in the youth team together.
Joe Garner was a player Mark Hughes agreed to let go as competition for places at the time in the striking department was too great for the youngster to get a look in. After initially going to CarliseCarlise made the move permanent in the summer of 2007 for £140,000 which was then a club record fee for Carlise. The following season after scoring 14 goals for the Cumbrian side Garner joined Nottingham Forest for just over £1 million pounds, Its not quite worked out for Joe so far at Forest and he ended the current season out on loan at Scunthorpe where he hit 6 goals in 14 appearances
Football is about opinions and being in the right place at the right time for Garner it didn't happen for him at Rovers, Perhaps other youngsters like Gunning will also find themselves looking at pastures new to make a first team breakthrough. Jones has had the opportunity and taken it with both hands the question is "Is he really worth £20 million",