Curtis Jones is coming on leaps and bounds after enjoying a stellar rise in 2020 – and Jurgen Klopp insists he will get even BETTER and play for England after breaking into Liverpool’s team
- Curtis Jones announced himself to the footballing world on January 4 last year
- The teenager’s superb curling winner knocked Everton out of the FA Cup
- Jurgen Klopp is adamant that Jones will play for England after his meteoric rise
- Klopp admits the race for the title will be more nerve-wracking than last season
It was an especially cruel quirk of the calendar that saw 2020 run into extra time — of course that miserable year of deserted stadiums and hollow celebrations stretched into a 366th day.
Amid the misery and monotony, however, feelgood tales emerged and few in English football experienced a leap year like Curtis Jones.
On this day in 2020, the midfielder was preparing for an FA Cup clash with Everton. Within 36 hours he had led Jurgen Klopp’s side to the fourth round — his stunning winner, a first goal for the club, made Jones Liverpool’s youngest derby goalscorer since Robbie Fowler. Heading into tonight’s trip to Southampton, who will be without goalkeeper Alex McCarthy who has tested positive for Covid, the 19-year-old Jones has become a fixture in Klopp’s midfield.
Curtis Jones’ stunning FA Cup derby winner against Everton catapulted him into the spotlight
Jurgen Klopp is adamant that Jones will play for England after a series of strong displays
‘How he has done so far is outstanding,’ the Liverpool manager said. Hardly surprising, then, that minds are wandering another year down the line, pondering where this wave could carry him by early 2022. Back in October, Jones was named in England’s Under 21 squad for the first time. With a rescheduled Euros on the horizon, is it beyond him to make a late surge for the senior squad?
‘He’s a really good player and in the future he will play for England. If it’s this summer, I don’t know,’ Klopp added. ‘That’s a question for Gareth Southgate. It’s not my decision but we’re happy that we have him and that he plays in our team.’
How they have needed his guile and confidence with bodies breaking down everywhere. ‘I don’t know where we would have been when we had all the injuries if he hadn’t been available,’ Klopp added.
The same goes for his other youngsters. Nat Phillips made his debut in that win over Everton, Rhys Williams had been sent off for Kidderminster Harriers a week earlier. They are now two of Liverpool’s three fit centre backs, alongside midfielder Fabinho.
January at least offers Klopp the chance to bring in new faces. ‘We have solutions in the squad, but we struggle still,’ the manager said. ‘Some players are injured, they play pretty quick like Joel Matip and then get injured again. It just can happen like this when it starts at one point and doesn’t stop.’
Klopp believes the 19-year-old can get even better after establishing himself in Liverpool’s side
So will he look elsewhere? ‘I don’t know,’ Klopp replied. ‘Doing the right thing would make sense, but doing something makes no sense. We are in the situation we are and we have to deal with it.’
So far they have dealt with it well — Liverpool began 2021 top of the pile. This time last season they were 13 points clear, now they lead Manchester United on goal difference. Defending the title will be more nail-biting than the procession which broke their 30-year drought.
‘Yeah that’s for sure,’ Klopp said. ‘We wish it would not be that close but I’m not surprised it is. We have our situation, all the other clubs have theirs, and our season is so far, so good. This season is a tough one for the supporters. If you’re a neutral, you’ll love it, I’m pretty sure, because it will go to the wire.’
Southampton will have to make do without keeper McCarthy tonight and he could also miss their FA Cup tie against Shrewsbury. The Saints players took tests on Wednesday and he was the only one to test positive. His absence is a blow as only Aston Villa’s Emi Martinez has kept more than his seven league clean sheets.
Rhys Williams is one of the players who has been unexpectedly thrust into the first team
Ralph Hasenhuttl is wary of Liverpool’s quality despite them being without Virgil van Dijk
It opens the door for Fraser Forster to make his first appearance for the club since May 2019.
For a short time in November, Southampton led the pack. They ended 2020 with more points than everyone besides Liverpool, Manchester City, United and Chelsea. Tonight they welcome back Ralph Hasenhuttl after the manager had to self-isolate for their draw with West Ham — a result that means Liverpool are now the only team against whom he has yet to win a point.
‘So let’s go for this game,’ Hasenhuttl said. ‘Even without Virgil van Dijk they showed they can be consistent in taking points. Maybe not that dominant like last season, but in the end I see them at the very front.’
Southampton’s Alex McCarthy has tested positive for Covid-19 and will miss Monday’s game
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