On the eve of a Merseyside Derby game away at Goodison, Liverpool fans find themselves in a strange situation where for the first time in recent memory no one seems that bothered about the result. With the primary focus being on the Champions League second leg against Manchester City on Tuesday, this Saturday lunch-time game has fallen behind a bit in the pecking order of importance for many fans.
But one player may be able to reap the rewards of this situation and that’s young Curtis Jones. The 17 year old Scouser has been with Liverpool Football Club since the under 9’s squad and is an England U17 representative.
The first time he caught my eye was when he was a 15 year old, joining the LFC U18s squad in Jan 2017 and he only continued to impress over the coming months.
His early quality was obvious to see. The central midfielder was extremely comfortable on the ball, could dictate the pace of the game, knew how to pick a good pass and had an eye for goal.
What came later could be the defining moment in his career, Steven Gerrard became the Liverpool U18s manager. As a central midfielder who can defend and attack, who better to learn from than one of Liverpool’s greatest ever midfielders?
During the current 17/18 season Curtis has more than flourished under his tutelage. He’s become even more patient on the ball, knowing when the run wide, when to stay central, not playing risky balls when the pace of the game demands a simple pass to hold possession and his timing of runs into the box for goals.
At last count that I saw, the leading goal scorer for the U18s was Liam Millar (who is also now training with the first team) with 18 goals for the season. Curtis Jones’ goal tally? 18 goals. For a central midfielder, that’s an incredibly return no matter what league you’re in.
The secret comes down to his game intelligence. It’s why I’m so excited for the lad and certain that he will go as far as his attitude takes him.
Where other players can have incredible technique, can score lots of goals, pass amazingly well or can defend well, what sets Curtis apart is that he’s so advanced in his game intelligence that he can be trusted on any field. He has recently been promoted to the U23s and thrown straight into the starting lineup. I’m sure this was a test by Klopp along with Critchley and Gerrard to see how he would react to being around new players, a new formation, and a higher level of competition, but he dealt with it in style.
In my opinion, decision making is the difference between good players and great players. Take Xabi Alonso for example. He was never the fastest, didn’t have “unbelievable tekkers” or could score at will, but his game intelligence and vision is what set him apart from the rest.
So what should you expect to see if he takes the field against Everton? Don’t expect fireworks, 1,000 step-overs, or a banger from 40yds. What you’ll see is a young man controlling the play. He will receive the ball and without looking he will know exactly who is free around him. He will stand on the ball and play a pass that benefits the team and keeps the possession flowing. He will get back deep and defend when Everton are the on the attack and sprint upfield as fast as he can to be part of the counter-attack. If we’re lucky, we will see him at the edge of the box, waiting patiently for the right time to get in front of the goal. If that happens, slowly start standing up because it could very well end in him slotting away a goal.
I have a lot of faith in this young man and I know he will succeed. I just hope that he does that for Liverpool, his home city, his lifelong club and the one he will give his heart and soul for.