Football/Soccer

Rangers-bound Jordan Jones accepts being 'under the microscope' now

Jordan Jones (centre) would be alongside Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis (right) as Rangers players next season.

PLAYERS often talk about an international break putting them in ‘the shop window' for a potential move. Jordan Jones already knows where he's headed this summer - and is well aware he's already always “under the microscope.”

An IFA official introduced him by saying “he currently plays for Kilmarnock”, leading the Rangers-bound forward to groan and grin, quipping: “Don't start with those questions!”

The ever-polite local media respected that, at least for a while, at the press conference ahead of Northern Ireland's opening games in Group C of Euro 2020 qualifying, starting at home against Estonia tomorrow night.

However, the 24-year-old acknowledged that he's already the focus of great interest as he'll play for the Light Blues of Ibrox next season:

“Even since the January before when they [Rangers] put in a bid a lot more attention came around me. Since I've signed it's a totally different thing.

“Even simple things, like putting something on Instagram, the papers are making stories – not that I've put anything bad on.

“You see that you're right under the microscope. It is preparing me nicely for when I go there.”

He's also been getting some advice from Rangers players past and present, including those in the NI squad, although he may choose to ignore some of it:

“Yeah, they've let me know, especially ‘Davo' [Steven Davis] and ‘Laffs' [Kyle Lafferty]. I've realised myself, and [Kris] Boyd [of Kilmarnock] used to play for them [Rangers] and we've had a few words about how I need to conduct myself and how careful I have to be about anything I'm doing.”

Eyebrows – and a question – are raised about the wisdom of asking Lafferty, with Jones responding with a laugh: “I've just asked him what to do – and then I'll do the opposite of that! I'll be all right if I do the opposite of him.”

Despite initial annoyance from some Killie fans when Jones Tweeted his delight at securing the move, he proved his commitment to Steve Clarke's side by scoring a great winner against Rangers at Rugby Park.

He insisted that wasn't difficult to deal with, at least not initially: “At the time it wasn't, because you're in the zone, you're playing your game. But obviously afterwards it hit me what I'd done. But I'm just doing my job. When the gaffer picks me I go on the pitch and try to do my job.

“Obviously I got some stick off the Rangers fans but that's part and parcel of the job as well.”

Clarke then controversially omitted Jones from his squad at Ibrox on Saturday past, but the player accepted that: “It's just one of those things. The gaffer has made that decision. Obviously the game I scored in was a bit bitter-sweet but that's my job, that's what I've done, and that's what I'll continue to do…

“When I got released by Middlesbrough there wasn't really any clubs throwing contracts at me, so it's a different position. It's hard to deal with, in a way, because you know you're going to a club in the same league. I've been trying to focus as much as I can on Kilmarnock.”

His colleagues have not treated him any differently, though: “No. Definitely not. I think everyone understands football and the way it works. All the lads congratulated me and they know I'll give 100 per cent while I'm still there.”

Getting goals, as a player or as part of the Northern Ireland team, is the aim on the international scene, after a frustrating autumn of good displays but no wins.

“Everyone's really excited, like I've been for all the games I've been called up for. We've had a couple of meetings about performances. We've been trying to do the right thing in the last few games but the results haven't gone our way.

“We know that if we're to have any chance of qualifying that he have to get off to a good start – hopefully that's what we're going to do…

“We were playing some really good stuff, had a lot of possession. It's just about getting the ball in the back of the net. If we keep doing the right thing I've got no doubt that the goals will come.”

With double-headers against Estonia and Belarus home then away, the latter in June, NI will almost approach qualification as two different groups, Jones confirmed:

“Yeah, we went through it last night and basically split it up. The first four games are vital to us. If we are to stand any chance of going through then we have to pick up as many points as we can from those – look, we want to win them all.

“We've split it up into two sort of mini-groups. If we can be in a good position after the first four games, potentially we can be top of the group, Holland and Germany don't play as many as us.

“It's an exciting draw. There are games we believe we can win and we also know we're playing Germany and Holland, two of the world's best sides, so it's an exciting challenge for everyone involved”.

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