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The ‘humble young lad’ who grew up to be a football star

Phil Jones

Phil Jones

Just a decade ago Leyland lad Phil Jones was lining up alongside his team mates for Ribble Wanderers under-10s.

Little did the ambitious but down-to-earth and shy youngster know that just 10 years later he would become the country’s second most expensive teenage footballer.

For next season, Jones will take his place among the stars of Manchester United after his £16.5m transfer from Blackburn Rovers.

It is an amazing rise up the ranks for the former Balshaw’s High School pupil, who still lives in the town with his parents Mark and Helen.

And it is a lifetime away from the days the 19-year-old kicked a ball around Leyland’s parks with his mates.

But it’s come as little surprise to friends and former teachers.

Former tutor Caroline Molyneaux said: “Phil was in my first tutor group, because I had just joined the school in 2003.

“There were some funny memories involving Phil.

“Everyone in the form group had to clean the goldfish tank. He was off-balance and the children laughed when he fell and all the water went over him.

“Meanwhile, in Year Eight, I think there was a general election, and along with some friends he set up The Chav Party.”

Jones went through lots of ups and downs while at the Church Road school, including the death of one of his friends, Ryan Masterman, in 2006.

Ryan died when his BMX collided with a Vauxhall Corsa car in April.

Another pupil in his tutor group was Matthew Miller, who died in January 2010 when he fell from a bridge on the M6 in Leyland.

Miss Molyneaux said: “Along with some friends, he raised money for the memorial garden in his memory.

“There have been a lot of things that he has had to cope with. It was a shock for someone so young.

“He is such a humble young lad, and I hope that a move to a big club will not change him.

“He worked so hard at school to get his five A-C grades, and I think that it has all paid off for him.”

Jones started his footballing career with Ribble Wanderers under-10 team before he was snapped up by Blackburn Rovers to play in their under-11 side.

Jones made his first team debut for Blackburn in the League Cup against Nottingham Forest in October 2009.

Jones was not at his family home in Leyland when the Evening Post called.

But he told a national newspaper last year he was still happy living at home despite having broken into the Rovers first team.

And tellingly, he named United captain Rio Ferdinand among his idols. “I haven’t really thought about moving out,” he said. “If I did I would probably just end up back there most nights for my meals anyway.

“A year ago I was just another player hoping to make it. I was happy living with my parents back then and I still am now.”

A friend of the star said: “Phil is just an ordinary bloke. He’s close to his family and success doesn’t seem to have gone to his head.”

Balshaw’s headteacher Jo Venn said: “We are very excited for him and he deserves his success.”

 

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