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Keeping up with the Jones’

As we prepare for our final pre-season encounter with Torino, it’s easy to forget what an expectant summer we all had.

Posted by Andy Thompson
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Fabinho flew in under the radar, Xherdan Shaqiri arrived after Switzerland’s World Cup campaign, Alisson Becker was a bolt out of the blue and Naby Keita arrived to a year’s worth of fanfare. With such attention on all our new recruits, it’s easy for those waiting patiently for their chance to go unnoticed.

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However, Curtis Jones hasn’t gone unnoticed to me. The young, extremely talented midfielder has played a part in all pre-season games so far, starting most of them.

I have heard his name in dispatches for a couple of seasons now, and he always seems to have impressed at youth level. The 17 year old briefly figured in pre-season in 2017 and he has not only followed suit twelve months on, he has really stood out.

It’s no surprise – the youngster was a mainstay of Steven Gerrard’s talented U18 squad last season before the club legend left to take over the reins at Glasgow Rangers. And after an impressive season in youth football, Jones has taken his opportunity in the pre-season to appear on Jürgen Klopp’s radar.

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He is extremely confident and has something I love to see from young players – he demands the ball. He isn’t frightened of demanding the ball from the likes of Mo Salah and makes runs to create space. He reminds me a lot of Jonjo Shelvey in that aspect. When we signed him from Charlton as a young player he demanded the ball from the likes of Steven Gerrard. It’s an admirable trait in players, it shows they are confident enough in their own ability to get involved and want something to happen.

He also has a delightful range of passing. There have been five or six occasions where a through ball from Jones has set one of our players away. For someone of such a young age, he already has a significantly advanced range of passing. He has a real eye for a threaded pass. In our system with our front players, this is a very good asset to have.

And though he has yet to take to the field, Jones was on the bench for the drab 0-0 draw at Goodison Park last season. With the Reds having bigger fish to fry in Europe, Jones took his place on the bench though he didn’t come on. What an experience for him – almost unheard of for most 17 year olds.

But what does the next 12 months hold for the talented midfielder? In all likelihood, he will spend most of the season in the youth teams. There is little indication that he will be leaving on loan currently and Klopp has spoken of a long route ahead for him in terms of getting into the first team. With a raft of arrivals in midfield and the Reds running deep in midfield, it’s unlikely that his pre-season highlight reel will culminate in much first team action.

It’s not impossible however – with Adam Lallana struggling once more with muscle problems and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ruled out for the season before a ball has been kicked in anger, perhaps Jürgen Klopp will refresh his squad come Carling Cup or FA Cup early rounds. If that decision is taken (for the record, we *really* need to win a trophy) then Jones is likely the next midfield cab off the rank.

We all love a local lad making it into the first team and whilst I’m not going to draw comparisons to certain legendary past players, I can see why Jones is getting compared to them. He has a great range of passing, really superb given his age. He has slotted in during pre-season and I have enjoyed watching him as much as I have, say, Naby Keita.

If he stays grounded, and I have no doubt he is at the right club with the right coaching staff to make sure that this happens, then I am hopeful Curtis Jones might take the Trent Alexander-Arnold route into the first team. No loans, just straight into the squad when he’s ready.

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*Odds are subject to change.

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