It would be fair to say Jordan Jones’ summer arrival was one that slipped under the radar, not least because his capture was announced in January and fans had to wait months to finally see him in a Rangers shirt.
Even when he was eventually unveiled as the new number 22, there wasn’t a great fanfare over the former Kilmarnock man as he got down to pre-season with his new teammates and boss Steven Gerrard. But there’s no doubt that as Jones picked the ball up on the left hand side during Sunday’s thumping victory over Hibs, the packed stands in Ibrox knew exactly what to expect from a man who has stepped it up a gear since his arrival in Glasgow. What he did next was simply sublime and really highlighted how he has improved in the short two month spell.
Jones had the confidence to drive at the defence – much like he did for Joe Aribo’s goal in Denmark on Thursday night – and take the game to his opponents in a direct fashion. That he was able to slip in Sheyi Ojo who then set up Jermaine Defoe for the goal was the just rewards for Jones whose impressive initial play had led to the second goal.
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Having spent six years covering Kilmarnock, I saw around 100 players come and go – many of whom were never heard of again. Jones arrived at Rugby Park as part of a cringeworthy 10-player unveiling ceremony and could easily have gone down the same road as many of the others who were given contracts that day and vanished without trace.
His early career at Killie was no picnic and he struggled to get into the team under Lee Clark, finding starts hard to come by and struggling in his new surroundings. It would take a few months before he would get into the swing, helped by former Rangers manager Lee McCulloch who had taken over as manager.
By the end of 2016/17, Jones had started to find his feet and show a bit of early promise. That would turn into a proper run of form under Steve Clarke in his second season which would have initially alerted Mark Allen to the former Middlesbrough man. The problem he faced was that he was a lightweight winger who relied on a kick it and run style of play, fine for a team like Kilmarnock who were playing on the counter attack but many Rangers fans were asking if he was really what Gerrard’s squad needed. I was of a similar opinion and admit it to not being totally convinced it was the right sort of signing the team needed to build on an impressive first season under the new manager.
Jones is not a boy short of confidence but I’m sure he would have seen and heard some of the comments after he signed the contract at Ibrox. I’m also sure it would have made him even more determined to prove the doubters wrong and perhaps that is what is bringing out this brilliant form.
Going back to that second goal on Sunday, that whole passage of play from Jones was something we wouldn’t have necessarily seen last season. Normally he’d have ran the line and tried to get a cross in the box but now he’s taking the game to teams and driving the spaces in a bid to open the game up. He is also finding the killer final ball which is another thing which has let him down in the past.
Jones’ overall build is slightly bigger now too, meaning he’s harder to knock off the ball in the more physical encounters. The early signs suggest he will be an excellent addition to the team if he can keep this sort of form up while he also has the sort of ego that can fill a Rangers shirt.
Plus, if there was one thing Jones did thrive on, it was games against Celtic and coming up against his old pal Scott Brown – let’s hope he has the last laugh again when the teams meet next month.
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