There was a point towards the end of 13/14 where the thought of Phil Jones caused more upset than tax & national insurance on my payslip.
That point was the penalty he gifted to Liverpool on that god awful Sunday. In all fairness we were shite from 1 to 11 and from the first whistle to the last, but this one moment was a crushing point for me, when we really needed focus, composure and the ability slow down the scouse onslaught, but he went through Joe Allen like a pair of secateurs and the game was gone, but we’d handed them a huge boost in their belief they could end their wait for a domestic title, it was just a horrible feeling!
Fast forward 12 months and it’s a VERY different picture!
The scousers have returned to their natural role of banging on about the past and the future while ignoring their current mediocrity, and the demon of that afternoon went about quietly rebuilding a reputation that had been destroyed by prolonged spells out injured and drunken puppy like performances when he did manage to be fit enough to play.
There were quite a few stand out moments for me, many will rightly highlight the flipper the dolphin tackle on Giroud, and so they should, quite often improvised genius can look foolish at the time, but when you look at it and think how easy it would’ve been to do nothing and hope Spanish Dave came to our rescue again, or to throw out a hand, flap it away and leave the lads a man and goal down, but he did neither, he had the sense to do the senseless thing and throw his face towards the feet of the onrushing Frenchman, having a last line of defence so willing to do such things to protect the goal behind him is a huge benefit, an even bigger benefit when it’s commuted it’s long term future to the club.
Of even bigger benefit is the way he’s learned to adapt his game, he still makes those challenges that sound like a lumberjack taking down a 60 foot oak tree, but he does so 10 yards from the halfway line, not in our 18 yard box as he’d been doing previously, it was great to see, after losing Vidic you had to wonder who was gonna step up and be our specialist leaver on of one on the oppositions fair weather creative sort, and young Phil did that magnificently at times last year.
If (and I appreciate its a HUGE if) he can maintain that upturn in his class and form over a 40 to 50 game season, then we’ve a top class defender to enjoy the progression of in the coming years, if he can do this while not causing 204 injuries to team mates per season in acts of training ground retardedness, then we’ve someone who’s the potential to prove that our time out of the domestic and european spotlight will be much shorter term than we ever thought it would be as he reached that low point in March 2014.