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Opinion

Graeme Jones isn’t coming home…just yet

1 week ago
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It was 158 days ago when the fortunes of Newcastle United and England were transformed.

If you go back much further than 158 days, none of us knew who Graeme Jones was.

Well that is, apart from the liars of course and a small number of people who are into general football trivia.

Be honest, if somebody had said to you at the start of January that Newcastle United were going to sign Graeme Jones…like me, your first thought would have been, I hope he can score goals!

Bournemouth Official Announcement – 27 January 2021:

‘Graeme Jones has left AFC Bournemouth to become assistant coach with Newcastle United.

Jones, who was born in Gateshead, joined the Cherries as first-team coach in August last year and worked alongside manager Jason Tindall and assistant Stephen Purches, having previously managed himself at Luton Town.

The club would like to thank Graeme for his hard work while with the Cherries and wish him all the best in his future in the game.’

When Graeme Jones came home (a 50 year old Geordie born and bred in Gateshead), Newcastle United were on a run of nine defeats and two draws in their last eleven matches.

It was an amusing sideshow as Newcastle United picked up more points and more goals, to see Steve Bruce immediately annoyed at Graeme Jones dominating the touchline as he and the other Steves muttered to each other in the background.

It was even better as Steve Bruce became even more upset and frustrated at Graeme Jones getting all the credit for Newcastle no longer playing absolute rubbish. Bruce especially upset at suggestions that the Geordie coach had been parachuted in without his (Bruce’s) agreement.

Steve Bruce repeatedly saying that it was all his idea to sign Graeme Jones, well we’ll allow him one decent decision…

The difference in results and performance was startling…

Under Steve Bruce the first 20 Premier League games of the 2020/21 season had seen an average of 0.95 points per game and 0.95 goals per game, very similar to his entire Premier League management record these past two decades.

Once Graeme Jones was parachuted in, the final 18 PL matches of last season saw Newcastle United average 1.44 points per game and 1.50 goals.

Graeme Jones is having something of a busman’s holiday this summer, instead of sitting home wondering if he’s going to be allowed to go abroad like many of us, he has decided to make it a ‘successful’ 2021 for both club AND country.

The Gateshead Lion has now led (with input from Gareth Southgate) England into the Euro 2020 semi-finals.

A dominant 4-0 trouncing of Ukraine in Rome on Friday night, sending England into a Wednesday night 8pm kick-off against Denmark at Wembley.

Playing for a place in the final, at Wembley on Sunday at 8pm against Spain or Italy.

Quite amazing just how bad England’s record has been in the Euros, arguably even worse than Newcastle United in the League Cup.

For Denmark it will be their fourth Euros semi-final and of course they dramatically won it in 1992, despite not even qualifying for the finals…

For England it is only their second Euros semi-final and they haven’t even reached a final, never mind win one.

Under Graeme Jones, England have kept seven consecutive clean sheets for the first time in their history.

Also becoming the only team not to concede a goal in the first five games of a European Championship finals.

Surprisingly, Gareth Southgate hasn’t followed the Steve Bruce lead and tried to push Graeme Jones into the background / anonymity as much as possible and has been happy to share the praise all around for England’s effortless progress.

Yes they have had as fortunate a draw as the one Kenny Dalglish enjoyed when taking Newcastle United to the FA Cup final in 1998 but you can only beat what is in front of you.

England (4th) are the highest ranked team left in the competition after both Belgium (1st) and France (2nd) bowed out.

England fortunate to play the likes of Czech Republic (40th), Scotland (44th) and Ukraine (24th). Whilst both Croatia (14th) and Germany (12th) are declining forces.

However, you can only beat what is in front of you and to have four wins and a draw with no goals conceded and eight scored is some going.

The stats (England 10 shots v 7 from Ukraine, 51% possession v 49%, 6 shots on target v 2, 2 corners v 3)from last night suggest that England may well need to step it up when playing the likes of Denmark (10th in world) and then hopefully Spain (6th) or Italy (7th) and maybe unleashing a more positive approach (playing Grealish, Sancho and Foden) could bring even better and more stylish performances and results…however, they haven’t done too bad so far.

One way or another, the busman’s holiday will end for Graeme Jones in this next week, then he can return home to Tyneside with hopefully the Euro 2020 trophy and an open top bus around the Toon, so we can all applaud his achievements.

When Graeme Jones does return to Newcastle United he will find things remarkably familiar, as though nothing has been done at all to help ensure next season isn’t a disaster…

You do wonder what Jones will think after experiencing the ambition, the professionalism and attention to detail of the England set-up, to then return to the Mike Ashley circus and Steve Bruce.

Mike Ashley may even be eyeing a profit, dreaming of somebody coming in with a massive bid for the promising Geordie he paid only £250,000 to Bournemouth for, just over five months ago.

Maybe enough to finance that 21 year old central defender from Wolves who Newcastle are claimed to have bid £1m for, or Southampton reject Mario Lemina who Mike Ashley is refusing to pay a transfer fee (£4m) for because he turns 28 in September.

As always, Newcastle United is a very different world, who can blame Graeme Jones if his successful summer leads to a more attractive offer elsewhere?

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