Belfast Telegraph

I regret rejecting Northern Ireland for England, says new man Jordan Jones

 

By Steven Beacom

New Northern Ireland ace Jordan Jones is relishing the prospect of making an impact at international level after being called up for next month's World Cup qualifiers with Germany and Norway.

The Kilmarnock winger was both proud and relieved to be given the nod having previously turned down the chance to play for the Northern Ireland under-21 side.

Jones has been in such fine form at club level this season that Championship clubs Cardiff City, Fulham, Norwich City and Preston are all monitoring his progress.

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has also been making regular checks on the 22-year-old, who he describes as an 'eye catching' player.

Middlesbrough-born Jones, who qualifies for Northern Ireland through his father, was given the welcome news by O'Neill on Sunday that he would in the squad to face World Champions Germany at Windsor Park on October 5 and Norway in Oslo three days later.

You get the sense he won't be overawed if he makes his international bow.

"It's international football so you are playing against the best players in the world," said Jones, who started his professional career at his hometown club.

"I'm really thrilled to be picked and can't wait to get going. It's a great confidence boost and big achievement for me and my family and hopefully I can make a good impression in training and get some time on the pitch."

It's all a far cry from when Jones decided not to play for the Northern Ireland under-21 side because he felt he could make it with England. Prior to that Jones had played in the Northern Ireland under-19 team.

"I played for the Northern Ireland under-19s when I was 17 and I didn't really enjoy it to be honest," said Jones

"When I was doing really well at Middlesbrough I was asked to play for the under-21s and felt it would be a good experience.

"But I ended up pulling out of the squad which is something I later regretted. I was young and immature. It was a stupid decision. I shut the door at that time because I was hoping to get into the young England squads but that didn't happen.

"When I think about it, it's embarrassing, but I'm more nature now and I'm really looking forward to joining up with the Northern Ireland squad."

During his time at Middlesbrough, Jones had loan spells at Hartlepool and Cambridge before last year moving to Kilmarnock in an attempt to kick-start his career.

It has worked and, although Killie are having struggles in Scotland, Jones has been a shining light for Lee McCulloch's side.

McCulloch is delighted that the talented winger's recent form has been rewarded with a place in the Northern Ireland squad.

O'Neill's men are destined to play in the World Cup play-offs in November and McCulloch is determined that Jones continues to show the dedication that could take him all the way to the finals in Russia.

"My job is to make sure Jordan is working as hard as he possibly can every single day, and if he does that it'll stand him in good stead in terms of going to the World Cup," said McCulloch.

"If he doesn't make the squad for the tournament I've told him to make sure it isn't because of a lack of application, dedication and effort."

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