LONDON — England youngster Phil Jones insists he isn’t losing any sleep over the daunting prospect of facing Spain’s world champions in just his second international appearance.
Jones has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last two years, but the Manchester United defender will face the sternest test of his brief career if, as expected, England coach Fabio Capello selects him against Vicente del Bosque’s glittering collection of stars in today’s glamour friendly at Wembley.
Jones believes he is best suited to central defence, however Capello played him at right-back on his debut against Montenegro last month and is mulling over another switch that would see him charged with disrupting Spain’s passing carousel in a midfield holding role.
Xavi and Andres Iniesta have taken the game to dizzying new heights during their glorious union in midfield for Barcelona and Spain and stopping them has been beyond players with far more experience and success on their CVs than Jones.
But Preston-born Jones claims he has never been one to worry about the reputation of opponents or the magnitude of an occasion, so taking on Xavi and company is just another experience to relish.
“Xavi and Iniesta are two fantastic players, we all know that, but they are only human. Everyone can make mistakes if you get in amongst them and bite away,” Jones said.
“Nothing worries me. Obviously you get a few jitters before the game. That’s only natural, but in general what have I got to worry about? I’m doing what I love, playing against the best players all over the world.
“I don’t fear the game. There’s pressure playing for United and England in every game, if it’s a friendly or a massive game and you’ve got to be able to deal with that. I think I do that.”
Jones has played in central midfield once for United since his £16 million close-season move from Ewood Park and that experiment, in a 1-1 draw at Liverpool, was deemed only a partial success.
However, Jones played most of his only full season with Blackburn in that position and grew used to being shuffled into different positions during his time at Rovers.
“I played everywhere as a kid,” he said. “I came to Blackburn at the age of 10 as a right midfielder, then went to central midfield and in the Under-16s I was a centre-back and the Under-18s I went back to right-back.
“That’s why I feel I’m more than capable of playing in any position I’m asked to.
“If I’m asked to play there and the manager picks me I will look forward to it. It’s a great game to play in.”