PHIL Jones looks set to take a massive step forward in pursuit of his international dreams after being identified by England under 21 boss Stuart Pearce as one for the future.

Reports of the Blackburn Rovers defender being at the centre of a club versus country row ahead of next week’s under 19 European Championships in France have proved premature – with the FA recognising Jones has already progressed to the next stage.

Jones will not be named in the England under 19 squad because Pearce has put a block on his involvement with an eye on including him in the under 21’s squad for the game against Uzbekistan on August 10.

After England’s shambolic World Cup campaign in South Africa, a new importance has suddenly been placed on Pearce’s stars of the future and Jones is now expected to feature in the ‘new beginning’ at Ashton Gate next month.

Rovers though were accused in some quarters yesterday of withdrawing the 18-year-old from the under 19s, with some critics labelling the move as a disgrace.

Club officials have been angered by those criticisms and insist they would never stand in the way of a player’s international aspirations - with Jones’ team mate Jason Lowe included in next week’s under 19 squad.

The FA had sent letters last month to all Premier League clubs with players who could be called up for the under 19 championships - asking them to release their youngsters for the tournament.

Rovers did send a letter back, outlining their fears over Jones’ involvement, but any prospect of a dispute disappeared with the news the defender would not be included anyway with Pearce recognising he has already progressed to the next level.

Jones started seven Premier League games last season, which would have made him the England under 19’s most experienced player by a margin.

Aston Villa’s Nathan Delfouneso is the only other player in the squad with significant Premier League experience although his 13 substitute appearances still leave him a long way behind Jones.

He is currently on pre-season tour in Austria and, with Ryan Nelsen on an extended break after the World Cup, will be hopeful of starting next season as one of the club’s first choice centre backs.

Rovers feared if Jones’s pre-season was disrupted then his hopes of being available for the Premier League opener would be destroyed.

Their letter told the FA all medical evidence points to the damage not having a full pre season can have on a player’s season and how they felt the tournament was not in the best interests of Jones, Rovers or even England.

Michel Salgado, Vince Grella and Nikola Kalinic have all shown the potential problems missing a pre-season can have on the first few months of the campaign and Rovers are determined not to see Jones having to play a similar ‘catch-up’.

Jones’ Premier League displays towards the end of last campaign have already led many to liken him to Chelsea skipper John Terry and selection for the under 21s would suggest England chiefs also see him as potential senior international one day.