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Blackburn Rovers Blog: Fergie should have had a Phil
BY the time Phil Jones announced his Premier League arrival with a stunning debut against champions-elect Chelsea, Alex Ferguson had already gambled £10million on another relative unknown.
When the Manchester United boss snapped up a then 20-year-old Chris Smalling from Fulham on a pre-contract deal in January 2010, it was assumed he had unearthed the next big thing.
How Fergie must have wished he had held on to his money a little longer with Jones now emerging as the best defensive prospect in the country.
Smalling may have otential and be progressing nicely at Old Trafford but Jones has already shown himself to be a little bit special. That cut above the rest.
When Ferguson moved for Smalling, Jones was still a Premier League stranger having only made two League Cup starts for Rovers.
Those brief glimpses were enough to convince Sam Allardyce and company they had a gem on their hands – but they bided their time before letting the rest of the country see his potential.
Had he been thrust into the first team picture earlier, things could have been different. Ferguson would have had a decision on his hands, with two home grown talents emerging, and could easily have opted to move for Jones.
Rovers have since turned down an £8million bid for Jones from Arsenal but a bid from a club like United that early in his career might have tested their resolve.
It is not as though Smalling was a Premier League regular himself. He had only made his Fulham debut a month before United announced the signing.
Smalling had been tracked by United scouts prior to his senior bow, having earned international recognition during his brief time at Craven Cottage.
Jones on the other hand had gone under the radar. Throughout his time in Rovers’ academy he was just one of the many hopefuls and even when he played for the reserves he was never touted as something special.
Gavin Gunning, now on loan at Motherwell, was ahead of him in the queue and no one had predicted what was about to follow for Jones.
Seeing him sign yet another long term deal at Ewood Park is a huge boost to everyone.
It may not guarantee his long-term loyalty but it does put the power in their hands. Jones will only leave Ewood for a huge sum.
It won’t be long before the big clubs come calling but Rovers have made sure they are calling all the shots. Thank goodness Ferguson spent his money when he did.
He may yet regret it.
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