Liverpool loanee Lloyd Jones started in Swindon Town’s League One clash against Peterborough United on Saturday and showed he’s getting back to fitness and form.
The 20 year-old is on his fourth loan spell away from Liverpool since the start of 2015, after so far struggling to break into the first team squad.
The Plymouth-born defender was brought from the academy of his home town as a youth in June 2011 and after impressing at the Kirkby training complex, was handed his professional contract in May 2012.
After missing most of last season through injury, Jurgen Klopp and academy director Alex Inglethorpe understandably sent Jones back out on loan where he will enjoy a season with Swindon Town in League One.
Jones’ performance on Saturday had it’s ups and downs though and it gave some indication as to why he will likely struggle to feature for Liverpool in the future.
Swindon went down a goal in the first half after a string of defensive mistakes led to a controversial free-kick for Peterborough.
Jones, who lined-up as a left-sided defender in a central back three supported by two wing-backs, was in the middle of some of Swindon’s dodgy defending at times.
It was a cautious line-up but Swindon were vulnerable at the back, naming two right wing-backs as part of the back five and Jones, along with his teammates, looked uncomfortable on a few occasions.
His side managed to claw themselves back into the game on two occasions after Posh took a 1-0, then a 2-1 lead but Jones’ luck didn’t improve much.
He was carded in the second-half for a tug in the box off the ball, demonstrating signs of immaturity and a slightly reckless tackle saw him concede a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the box with less than ten minutes of full-time left to play.
In the end, a well battled 2-2 draw gave a brighter end to his outing and although the criticism may be harsh for the youngster, there was plenty in his performance which demonstrated why he’s been overlooked so far at Liverpool.
However, the England U-20 international is still young, especially for a centre-back, and clearly has strengths which he can develop.
Jones is strong in the air and possesses good composure on the ball – often looking to play out from the back with direction.
Although, it’s clear he has limitations to his game and why a career in the Football League is far more likely than making the breakthrough at Anfield in the future.
Jones though has been unlucky that injuries during a crucial time have impacted his development.
After two spells in League Two in 2015, at Cheltenham Town and Accrington Stanley, he made the step up to League One, with Blackpool, last season.
The youngster performed reasonably well and became a regular starter until he picked up a serious knee injury in October 2015. He returned to the relegation-set Seasiders in March but ended up back at Kirkby to complete his recovery with the under-21s.
A return to League One this season provides Jones with a great opportunity to push forward and consolidate his position in the Swindon Town first team. His performance against Peterborough was his third for the club so far and he’s very much in the centre of plans for the Wiltshire outfit, who opt for a good passing style.
Indeed, he was named man of the match in their win over Port Vale last month, with local media labelling his performance as the “stand-out.”
Against Peterborough on Saturday he struggled positionally on occasions, getting caught out after drifting too far wide. This, though, was likely due to the unfamiliar setup he found himself in as part of Swindon’s three-man defence but nevertheless.
A strong season with Swindon would prove hugely beneficial to the youngster and he may be able to push for a loan at a Championship side if he shows development and consistency. He hasn’t looked out of place in the League One set-up and that’s certainly a positive. He’s still young and has some improving to do but he looks fairly comfortable as part of a third-tier side.
Jones is highly unlikely to feature for Liverpool though. He made head-ways in 2013, a year after signing his professional contract. He made 21 appearances for the U21s squad and was even named on the first team bench against Fulham in May 2013. There was hope for the youngster and after a quick rise and an earlier rapid development, his potential seems to have stagnated.
Last season’s injury will no doubt have put an obstacle in the way of development but after signing a contract extension with Liverpool this summer, it’s clear the club see talent in him. He’s demonstrated potential in League One and a successful season with Swindon Town could see his price tag raised by the end of the season.
Jones must impress in League One and then challenge for a place within a Championship side next season.