RR: How do you know Jordan Jones?
MW: I first met Jordan in the injury room at Rockliffe Hall. I had known about the potential he had for some time before that, though - people would always talk about how good he was, which was quite intimidating for a younger player.
He was two years older than me and was well regarded as one of Middlesbrough Academy’s best prospects at the time, and he was undoubtedly a favourite of academy manager Dave Parnaby.
We spent a couple of months there together, often training side by side as we were getting back to full fitness. We both were similar in terms of pace (I was well regarded as one of the fastest players in the system).
However, I remember one session in the latter stages of the rehab programme, we were competing in a race. I backed myself against anyone, so did not expect him to beat me, but he did. Had the race been one hundred metres, I’m sure I would have won! But, he beat me fair.
Not long after, we went our separate ways back into full training. Until, I met him again at Scholarship level - he was a first year pro at the time and occasionally both groups would train together. That was when I saw what JJ could do first hand.
He was levels above. I couldn’t get nowhere near him, and both being opposite wingers we would play on the same side as each other.
What stood out to me was those first couple of yards he would get on you. The agility, technique, skill, change of direction and centre of gravity was all too much.
He was a player I would look to learn from, but unfortunately I did not have the ability to do so.
When he left Middlesbrough, it was a great shock. He made some first team appearances under Aitor Karanka before his arrival into Scottish football with Kilmarnock.
RR: Daft question maybe, then... but is he any good?
MW: Jordan is player that has so much talent that it’s hard to believe he hasn’t reached the heights that he is capable of.
Personally, I put that down to the ethics of football. Opinions, favouritism, different managers, motivation and seemingly focus. He needs football, he is a person that wouldn’t function without it - an individual that has no other place than on a football pitch.
This only adds to the anticipation that we do not know the best of him yet, and neither does he.
To answer your question, yes he is good - very good. He can put the ball onto a player’s forehead with pinpoint accuracy from either side of the flanks, often cutting in on his favoured right foot from the left side.
He’s a striker’s dream.
RR: What sort of player is he?
MW: He is a player that needs no introduction - a player that needs no pat on the back, or a cuddle before kick off. He has supreme confidence, in himself and in his peers.
Jordan likes to take people on, cross the ball and claim the glory. He can create something from nothing, beating 1, 2 and 3 men to fire one home from 30 yards, find that cutting edge pass through the gaps in the defence, or curl one in for the awaiting striker.
All you have to do is watch his clips. You’ll see it time and time again.
RR: What does he bring to Sunderland’s side that we might lack currently?
MW: Jordan will make Sunderland much more threatening on the attack. Whilst Lee Johnson is doing an amazing job at getting this message to his wide players, Jordan will improve things tenfold.
I suspect that defenders will start to look for him to get the ball up the pitch quickly, and create, taking a great deal of stress off the back four, allowing the pressure to be continuous. He is the type of player that forces managers into making changes at half time.
RR: Where do you see him fitting into Sunderland’s side?
MW: In terms of the dressing room, Jordan will bounce off the more extroverted characters. As previously mentioned, the confidence he shows knows no boundaries. Many people may see this as detrimental to the harmony of the squad. However, I know given time he will become infectious, which will only benefit the team’s bond. This will be crucial, given the likelihood of another play-off battle.
Sometimes, there is a fine line between too much confidence and playing the clown but, don’t worry, he does not fall into the latter, with the main focus always being at the forefront of his actions - good spirits and three points.
Players will quickly recognise his influence and take a real shine to him. If you tried to suppress this, you would not see the best of him, and Sunderland need the best of him.
With a player like Jordan you need to let him feel free and express himself.
He has a great sense of humour and can lift the spirits of a defeated dressing room within minutes of a bad result.
In terms of football, I can imagine that Lee Johnson will introduce him fairly quickly, as we have seen with Winchester. His training levels are as good as any, and he will exceed expectations and excite the manager. With an added focus of finally impressing on a fantastic stage in English football, I’m really confident that he will become a top signing for Lee Johnson.
What a great headache it is to have McGeady and Jones competing for the same position.
My prediction is that the manager will find a way to play them both!
RR: What would you say his biggest strengths are as a player?
MW: In my own personal opinion his greatest strengths ranked in order are: pace, crossing, long-range finishing, and beating his man. As he gains momentum, shakes off the cobwebs of not playing much football of late, and really finds his feet, Im sure we’ll see so many more.
I have confidence that Sunderland will finally be the team to unlock his potential, and he will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to perform on a platform that his career dearly needs. He needs this as much as Sunderland do.
RR: And weaknesses... where would you say his game needs a bit of work?
MW: Game time. Unfortunately, he has fallen out of favour with Rangers recently, after a last minute red card and an injury to his knee in the Glasgow derby 2019/2020.
To be honest, he just needs to get away from there, as I can imagine Steven Gerrard is a stubborn character and won’t let that infuriation go. I know he will have learned a lot from this situation and will be eager to prove his worth.
Perspective is perhaps needed - Jordan will have to come here with the understanding that the manager will find areas he can improve on. He will not be treated any different to the other lads, and Johnson will want him to go over and above to improve him.
Also, I guess he just needs to try and focus on his game. JJ’s focus could potentially wander if he becomes inactive again at any point. He has to continue to work hard and keep the faith, no matter what happens on the pitch.
Like I mentioned before, he has no other place than on the football pitch - inactivity can be hard to deal with for a player like Jordan.
RR: Do you think he’ll be good for Charlie?
MW: This signing excites me, selfishly from a family perspective. Everybody who knows me knows how vocal I have been about Charlie over the past few seasons, but that is simply because I am so proud of what he has achieved, and what he still continues to achieve.
He has had his fair share of doubters in the past, and deservedly so.
However, I strongly stuck by him because I always knew the player you see today was hidden away inside. Thankfully you get to witness this now, and my vocal support is justified.
The service this year has already surpassed what it was like in the previous two seasons.
I remember back in his Carlisle days, the manager, Keith Curle, signed Nicky Adams. He was looking for a player with substantial crossing ability and a high success rate. He found him in Nicky, and the rest was history - he and Charlie linked up brilliantly together.
JJ will solidify the link between crosses and goals that he has perhaps missed since the days of playing with Nicky - I hope that they become two players that look for each other every time they have the ball, read each other’s game impeccably and form a partnership that has the whole league talking.
The bond they already have as friends is undeniably great, and Charlie will be over the moon at JJ’s potential arrival.
RR: What would you say to any Sunderland fans who are sceptical about this signing?
MW: To those who may be sceptical about this signing I say, hold your thoughts, bite your tongue and wait and see.