Jordan Jones can become a 'top, top player' with Rangers, says Northern Ireland manager
Just three years ago, Jordan Jones was dumped on the scrapheap by his boyhood club.
Other than loan spells at Hartlepool and Cambridge, Jones left Middlesbrough with just one senior appearance under his belt; in a 4-1 FA Cup third round victory over Hastings United.
Fast forward to 2019 and the 24-year-old is one of the up-and-coming darlings of Northern Irish football and is wasting no time after joining Rangers.
His international manager is even tipping him to fulfil his potential at Ibrox, having demonstrated his exciting talents since moving into Scottish football with Kilmarnock.
"It's no surprise to me whatsoever that Jordan has had a positive impact since he joined Rangers because he is a terrific player," said the Northern Ireland boss.
"There are areas that he needs to improve on that we have talked to him consistently about but he has got the capabilities to get fans on the edge of their seats.
"I was at the game at Ibrox earlier in the season when Rangers beat Hibs and Jones had the supporters going every time he got the ball.
"That's the excitement he gives you. I think he can keep doing that for Rangers and hopefully he can do that for Northern Ireland as well.
"The move to Ibrox is one that will give Jordan the opportunity to kick on.
"I think that he can develop into a top, top player at Rangers. He is confident and positive and likes the big stage. The bigger the game the more Jordan seems to revel in it.
“In international football with the Northern Ireland team the hardest place to play is in the wide areas. It can be a difficult position because sometimes you don’t get as much of the ball and you do more defensive work than attacking but Jordan has been an fantastic addition for us.”
It's all a far cry from his Middlesbrough departure.
"We had known about Jordan because he had been in with us before when Stephen Robinson (now Motherwell manager) was taking the under-21s,” says O’Neill.
“Then he had a bit of a meltdown and he disappeared on us for a little while. Thankfully he came back out of nowhere after kind of getting lost after he left Middlesbrough.
“He admits himself that he lost his way. Then Lee Clark brought him to Kilmarnock and under Steve Clarke he developed a lot with his defensive play and positionally became a lot better as well. I think Steve was very good for Jordan at a vital time in his career.”
Jones is certain to be in the Northern Ireland squad to face Luxembourg and Germany when it is announced by Michael O'Neill on Wednesday at 11am.
Belfast Telegraph Digital