No Hazard warning for Jones as England defender prepares for Tunisia clash
The Three Lions take on Belgium in their final World Cup group game.
Phil Jones is not dwelling on his part in Manchester United’s galling FA Cup final defeat and is sure there will be no hangover if he faces tormentor-in-chief Eden Hazard at the World Cup.
Final preparations are being made ahead of Monday’s Group G opener against Tunisia in Volgograd, before the Three Lions take on minnows Panama in Nizhny Novgorod and highly-rated Belgium on June 28.
Gareth Southgate’s men will be hoping there is nothing riding on that final group game given the threat posed by Roberto Martinez’s highly-talented Red Devils, whose captain in Russia is twinkle-toed Hazard.
The 27-year-old arrives at the World Cup fresh from a match-winning display for Chelsea in the FA Cup final, netting the penalty he won against Manchester United by drawing a foul from out-of-sorts Jones.
“It was crap,” the United defender said. “But that’s football. These things happen.
“You move on – you have to because I can’t sit on my a*** and dwell on it for weeks and weeks and weeks then I’d be ready to jump off a bridge if I think like that.
“It was disappointing, gutted, but that’s football. These things happen and there’s no point.”
It was a rare bad day at the office for normally dependable Jones, but the mismatch does not bode well ahead of the meeting in Kaliningrad.
“It happens to every single player, all over the world, every day,” the England defender said.
“Some get highlighted more than others, that’s football.
“I’m used to it now and I like to think I’m wise enough and experienced enough to deal with it and get on with it.
“(Hazard) has got to be up there with the best players, but I think there are a number of talented players all over the squads. We’ve got some here as well.”
England certainly look well placed to atone for recent major tournament failures this summer.
The 26-year-old is one of the five survivors from the squad that embarrassingly exited the 2014 World Cup at the group stage, but there is an air of positivity about the group moulded by Southgate.
“I feel there is more structure, everyone knows their jobs, their roles and what is expected of each other,” Jones said.
“Not just on the pitch but off the pitch. It works.
“I guess there is a clearer identity. I am not saying there was not previously but there is a different dimension and different way of doing things in certain situations.
“The lads have responded well.”
Jones spoke openly about a variety of issues at England’s media centre in Repino, from his Panini sticker to Twitter, and hotel curtains to the comparisons he has had to deal with over the years.
Sir Alex Ferguson once said he could be Manchester United’s best ever player and Sir Bobby Charlton likened him to Duncan Edwards, while former England boss Fabio Capello uttered him in the same breath as Franco Baresi and Fernando Hierro.
“No, it doesn’t bother me,” Jones said. “They are nice things to hear.
“When you are at a club like Manchester United or Manchester City, you are always going to get bigger hype, bigger headlines than if you are at a lesser club, no disrespect.
“You wouldn’t be studying me as much and that is part and parcel of being at one of the biggest clubs in the world. I love it.
“I remember one headline after the Italy game away (in 2015) and someone said I was ‘no (Andrea) Pirlo’ or something like that.
“I could have told them that before the game! “I remember thinking ‘no s***, Sherlock!’
“But that’s midfield. You have a laugh and a joke about it.”
Jones may be self-deprecating about his ability, but there is no little pride in his achievements to date.
“I’ve done well,” he said. I’m still at United, since 2011-12 and six years on I’m still there.
“I’m sure after the World Cup there’ll be some other story about me going somewhere else. But I am not interested.”
For now, his only interest is Monday’s match in Volgograd – and the chance to finally put hard work into action against Tunisia.
“It is about getting started now,” Jones added. “We are playing Monday so there are a few days left to train well and prepare well.
“You get itchy feet, now. We want the games to come around and we are ready.”