Belfast Telegraph

I can succeed with Northern Ireland and win the league with Rangers: Jordan Jones

Belarus v N Ireland, Euro 2020 Qualifiers Group C: Borisov Arena, Tonight, 7.45pm

Winging it: Jordan Jones goes through his paces at the ABFF Training Centre in Minsk yesterday
Winging it: Jordan Jones goes through his paces at the ABFF Training Centre in Minsk yesterday
Northern Ireland winger Jordan Jones celebrating in Estonia

By Paul Ferguson in Minsk

Exciting winger Jordan Jones has promised one last big push for Northern Ireland tonight in Borisov before he returns home to fulfil his dream move to Rangers.

The 24-year-old has signed for Steven Gerrard's Light Blues on a free transfer after leaving Kilmarnock, where he spent three years, at the end of the season.

Jones was disappointed to be left out of Michael O'Neill's starting XI against Estonia last Saturday night in Tallinn, having been in the side for the opening two Euro qualifiers in March.

However, his second-half cameo role, after coming off the bench for Michael Smith, was one of the main reasons, along with the performances of fellow subs Conor Washington and Josh Magennis, why Northern Ireland were able to change the complete dynamic of the match.

Estonian coach Martin Reim singled Jones out as a player his team simply couldn't cope with very well and the reason for the transformation in the match.

Jones, having signed a pre-contract agreement with Rangers, had largely been frozen out at Killie for the last few months of the season so he understood his lack of game time at club level would have impacted O'Neill's selection process for the Estonia match.

The Middlesbrough lad, who flew into Minsk yesterday morning along with his team-mates in preparation for this evening's game, however now hopes his display at the A Le Coq Arena will persuade O'Neill to start him in a crunch game for Northern Ireland.

"Everyone who comes away wants to start but Michael made the decision - I haven't played a lot of games in the last two months, so I could understand why I wasn't playing," he said.

"It was then up to me to come on and make a difference, along with the other subs; that's what we did and the main thing is that we got the result, so everyone's happy.

"I am now determined to win my place back, hopefully here against Belarus, and be an important part of the team."

With Jones on the left and Gavin Whyte on the right, ably supported by rampaging full-backs Stuart Dallas and Jamal Lewis, Northern Ireland had electrifying pace down the flanks against Estonia.

Tonight's match against Belarus should be an intense, physical battle and speed could be crucial if Northern Ireland are to prevail.

"Gavin and myself are similar players, we both try to be really positive when we get the ball," conceded Jones, who is set to win his ninth cap in Borisov.

"I suppose it was easier for me to see from the sideline (against Estonia) that the game was flat and needed a bit of positivity, a spark.

"That's what I try to bring and thankfully we got the three points.

"One thing you'll never be able to question about this team is the spirit, character and the ability to dig deep. We showed that again and we look forward now to Belarus."

In all three qualifying matches so far, Northern Ireland have enjoyed plenty of possession but when it comes to the final ball, quality has been lacking.

Jones hopes that will greatly improve against Belarus and he might finally open his international goalscoring account.

"We have performed well but maybe we could create a bit and put our chances away," stressed Jones.

"Hopefully I can go into the game and cause them problems again and hopefully get myself a couple of assists or a couple of goals.

"However, the main thing is to win the games so however we win them doesn't matter.

"Our approach, just like the home games, is to get two wins from Estonia and Belarus.

"We've got one and now we want to get the next one in Borisov."

On Saturday night, Rangers fans managed to see a sneak preview of what they can expect from their new signing next season in a royal blue shirt.

Jones was picked up off the scrapheap by Killie, having been released by hometown club Boro, and will be forever grateful to the club for rejuvenating his career, but now he can't wait to start the next chapter in his life.

"It was just a bit disappointing the way my time ended at Killie because I have a lot of love for the club for what they've done for me," admitted Jones.

"But that's football, that's the way it finished up.

"Since January when the move was announced I've obviously been trying to fully focus on Kilmarnock but it was quite hard.

"Now I'm itching to get in and get started with Rangers and put my marker down. I'm not just going there to say, 'I play for Rangers'. I want to go there and be a real success and I believe I can go there and do that.

"It is a huge club with a huge fan base.

"We are going to be playing European football in front of big crowds, I have no doubt that we are going to win the league at some point and hopefully sooner rather than later.

"For now, I'll concentrate on the national team and then join up with Rangers, which I'm really looking forward to. I can't wait for it. It's a positive time."

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