GARY Bowyer has expressed his delight after former Blackburn Rovers star Phil Jones was named in England’s World Cup squad.
But Jones, who rose through the Rovers ranks under Bowyer before making a £16.5m move to Manchester United in June 2011, faces a race against time to be fit for the Brazil tournament.
The versatile defender is recovering from a shoulder injury and will be cut from England manager Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad if he fails to prove his fitness by June 2.
“Hopefully he gets fit and gets a chance to play a part,” said Bowyer.
“It’s great news that Jonesy has been picked and it’s no surprise to me that Roy Hodgson wants to take him as he has the ability to play in several positions and not just as a centre back.
“I’m absolutely delighted for him and it’s a fairytale story for our football club that we’ve had a local lad break through into our first team, do as well as he has did, and now there’s a possibility he could play at the World Cup.
“Everybody at Blackburn can be proud of Phil Jones and it will be a fantastic day for everybody who has had an influence on him if he gets the chance to play in Brazil.”
Jones played for Rovers’ U16s, then managed by the club’s current assistant manager Terry McPhillips, before being fast-tracked into Bowyer’s U18s team, who he helped reach the semi-finals of the 2009-10 FA Youth Cup.
Jones’ U18s team-mates back then included current Rovers captain Grant Hanley and fellow first-teamers Jason Lowe and Josh Morris.
“When you look back now we were spoiled to have those four players in one group,” said Bowyer, who lost Jones for the FA Youth Cup semi-final second leg as he had played for Sam Allardyce’s first team the day before in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Ewood.
“It’s rare that you get so many in one group and that’s something for us to strive for and for us to reproduce in our Academy.”
It will be Jones’ first appearance at a World Cup provided he proves his fitness.
But should the 22-year-old, who grew up in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, fail to make it he will be replaced in the England squad by Everton’s John Stones.
Three Lions boss Hodgson said: “He (Jones) had his shoulder injury a week ago and, from what everyone tells me and my experience, it is a three-week injury to be back and playing.
“But we can’t guarantee that. Stones will be Jones’ replacement.”
Bowyer, meanwhile, is this week hoping to firm up a date for his planned end-of-season meeting with Rovers owners Venky’s.