Chris Samba summed up the speed of Phil Jones progression earlier this year.

“He changed so fast from someone you’d look at and think ‘hmm, I’m not sure about him’ to a year later you’re like ‘wow, that’s some player,” said Samba, who partnered the Academy graduate in central defence on his Premier League debut against Chelsea 10 years ago.

Jones would play just 40 times for Rovers before his big-money move to Manchester United in 2011, but the rate of his progression left a lasting impression on the Academy staff at Brockhall.

Indeed, his is an example used to the club’s current prospects, according to Jay Haddow, the 16-year-old having just signed two-year scholarship forms at Ewood Park.

Haddow has been with Rovers since the age of 13, having first moved to the UK from his native Hong Kong to Moorland School in 2016. Their close links with Rovers got him an opportunity to train with the Academy, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Having earned himself a deal which took him through to Under-16 level, Haddow has now agreed scholarship terms which will see him become part of Mike Sheron’s Under-18s set-up next term.

Lancashire Telegraph:

But he knows plenty of hard work lies ahead if he’s to earn himself a professional deal in two years time.

“Anything can happen. I’ve heard so many times that the best player at Under-14s will be the worst player at Under-18s or the opposite way around,” Haddow said.

“The best example Blackburn used to me is Phil Jones. At Under-18s was always playing at Under-16s because he just wasn’t good enough. He went to United for £18m three years later.

“I always knew (a contract at Under-13s) didn’t mean much because it was just the start. It’s the stuff that’s after that means a lot. If I ever get a professional contract, that will be the one I will be really proud to say ‘I got this’.”

Haddow says he was able to adapt to the technical side of the game quickly, after his upbringing in soccer schools in Hong Kong, but the physical aspects is something he’s had to come to terms with.

“It was quite overwhelming at the start, but you sort of get used to it. Being at a big club like Blackburn really helped me settle and I just play as I normally would. I forget whichever team we’re playing against, whether it’s Chelsea or City. I think of it as 11 other players,” he told the South China Morning Post.

Although a national ID card holder in Hong Kong, he is currently eligible to play internationally for England, Scotland and Japan. He says appearing for Hong Kong is ‘not feasible’ at this juncture, but hasn’t ruled it out in the future.

Before then he will try and become a fixture in Rovers’ Under-18s, who are currently waiting on news of the outcome of their FA Youth Cup campaign, having seen their semi-final with Manchester City put on hold.

Of his journey so far, he said: “I went for a taster week (at Moorland) because I had never seen a school in England before. I had been in Hong Kong my whole life so I needed to experience it before jumping straight in.

“During that time I was training with the school and there were some coaches visiting. They said they’d wait for me to come back in September, give me a week to settle in, then offer me a trial at Blackburn.

“I was completely new to English football and I found it really different to Hong Kong football – the physicality and the speed of the game.

“Then I also had to wait five months for my international clearance – I only played about two friendlies – but I did quite well.”

Haddow will study for a BTEC in sport, alongside his football, where he hopes his ability to play in a number of positions will work in his favour.

Admitting a big influence on his game is former Manchester United and England midfielder Michael Carrick, he explained: “Funnily enough, I was a centre-midfielder in Hong Kong but during my trial I was placed in centre-back. I think I might have impressed because that whole season and the season after I was a centre-back. Now times have changed so I’m back in midfield or full-back.”