Wigan Athletic legend is England's secret weapon!
Wigan Athletic hero Graeme Jones is the cool, calm and collected presence that has helped take perennial under-achievers England to within 90 minutes of Euro 2020 glory.
That’s the view of fellow Latics legend Graham Barrow, who says Gareth Southgate’s decision to draft in Jones on the eve of the finals is proving a masterstroke.
Jones, who still holds the club record for goals in a season – 31 in 1996/7 – and was assistant manager when Latics won the FA Cup in 2013, was a surprise call-up to bolster the backroom staff.
However, his work in aiding Newcastle’s late-season revival – after a similar SOS from Steve Bruce – had not gone unnoticed, and he’s now working his magic on the biggest stage.
“He’s done really well, to be fair,” said Barrow, who worked closely with Jones at Wigan for four years under Roberto Martinez.
“And it just goes to show the ups and downs of football.
“He’s gone from a short spell in management at Luton, to doing well at Newcastle last year, and now with England.
“Obviously his experience with Roberto in Belgium would have helped him, and it’s made him the ideal man to add something to England.
“He’s so thorough, so level-headed, everything you’d want in the camp at a time like this.”
For fans who remember Jones’ playing days – an ‘in-your-face’ striker who wore his heart on his sleeve – his reinvention as a softly-spoken ‘thinker’ may come as something of a surprise.
“Most people who remember him playing would have him down as a shouter,” Barrow acknowledged. “But I think that’s something else that working with Roberto taught him.
“It’s almost seen as being in the dark ages now, for managers and coaches to be shouting and screaming at players.
“You’ve got to remain calm and it’s more of the psychology of the thing now.
“To be fair, not many strikers go on to become top managers or coaches.
"I remember Bobby Charlton being manager at Wigan for a short time, and he couldn’t understand why the players couldn’t play the game as well as he could!
“But Graeme’s always been a deep thinker, and he’s always had a deep pride in what he does and how he does it.
“And I think even though he had such a successful time with Roberto, he’ll be relishing what’s happening at the moment.
“He’s as English as they come, and he’ll be as proud as they come that the team is doing so well.”
And as the country gets well and truly carried away by football fever, Barrow is also allowing himself to dream ahead of Sunday’s final against Italy at Wembley.
“The first game I saw Italy play in the tournament, I thought ‘wow, what a team’,” he added. “But we’ve proved throughout the tournament that we’re also a good team, and I think it’s going to be a cracking game.
“Other teams have had good individuals playing, but you’re probably looking at the two best teams in the tournament.
"The confidence in the England camp must be massive, you only need to look at Harry Maguire, and how much he’s come on since he was here at Wigan.
“They’ll never have a better chance to go all the way, and with the crowd behind them, let’s hope so.
"And it’s just what this country needs isn’t it, it’s given us all a lift after what’s happened of late."
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