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Northern Ireland can put World Cup pain in the past to reach Euro 2020: Jordan Jones

 

By Graham Luney

Kilmarnock ace Jordan Jones believes Northern Ireland can exorcise the ghost of their World Cup play-off nightmare by qualifying for Euro 2020.

The midfielder won his first senior cap in the second leg of the play off defeat to Switzerland in November when he came on as a substitute for Jamie Ward.

For the Northern Ireland players the World Cup will be tough viewing but Jones feels it's time to look forward to the future with optimism rather than dwell on missed opportunities.

"I don't see why we can't qualify for the Euros," said the 23-year-old.

"The belief is there, there is a really good bunch of lads and we are learning and want to get better every week. I think Michael is a very good manager and, as long as we keep buying into what he is saying, there is every chance we can get to another tournament.

"I've come in with the squad on a real high and not going to the World Cup because of a penalty decision was heartbreaking, but I think we have every chance to push on now.

"I don't think the referee coming out and saying he made a mistake made it any easier, but referees have a tough job and they will make bad decisions."

Jones was the subject of a bid from Rangers while Championship clubs in England are monitoring his progress.

But he is rated highly at Rugby Park and has played a big role in Steve Clarke's revival this season, with Killie currently fifth in the Ladbrokes Premiership table.

"The start of the season was a bit slow for Kilmarnock but the new gaffer came in and he has been fantastic," added Jones.

"I also made my international debut, though it was a bittersweet one. Steve Clarke has been vital for me and for the team.

"It's not just results, we have been getting performances as well especially against all the big teams.

"Michael has a similar approach. With Northern Ireland they are solid at the back and that's the way we like to play especially against the big teams.

"When I first moved to Scotland the defensive side of my game wasn't so good.

"The quicker you move into the first team you get to learn about that side of things and the manager has helped in that.

"We spoke the other week about my performances with Kilmarnock and he has been really impressed and now I want to try and get some minutes."

Earlier this month Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes accused Jones of diving but the former Middlesbrough youngster isn't bothered.

"I think he was trying to get me out of the (Scottish Cup) replay," he added. "I spoke to my gaffer about it and he told me to take it as a compliment and that's what I did.

"At the end of the day managers can say whatever they want. The only people I want to impress are Steve Clarke and Michael O'Neill. They are the only two managers that matter to me and the two that I care what they think about me. Any other manager I'm not fussed what they say or think about me.

"Michael suggested I was one of the players who are the future of Northern Ireland and I think it is a really big compliment.

"You have to make sure you don't get too excited about those compliments and go out and prove him right."

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