If Malta international Jodi Jones finds the net against England, James Maddison may feel rather conflicted.
The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder will be playing the role of spectator when the Three Lions take on the European minnows in the penultimate game of their Euro 2024 qualification campaign. Maddison, 26, will be absent from Gareth Southgate’s starting XI as he is nursing an ankle injury he picked up in Spurs’ explosive 4-1 home defeat to Chelsea.
But while he will be cheering on his fellow England comrades, he will also be watching Jones’ performance. It’s often said there are no friends when the whistle is blown, but Maddison will make an exception for the Maltese ace.
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Maddison and Jones have been friends since they played alongside each other at Coventry between 2014 and 2016. The duo are even in a WhatsApp group made up of other stars who turned out for the EFL side at the Ricoh Arena.
“He is a good guy,” Jones, 26, said, when asked about Maddison in an interview with the Athletic. “I say that to everyone. Some people might see him as arrogant. But when you know him, you understand that he just believes in his ability.
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“He backs himself. He is confident. Without that, I don’t think he would be where he is now. I still don’t think I have seen anyone with a better first touch than him, which takes him into another position — it might take him past a player; it might give him space for a shot.”
Jones now plays his football for Notts County. While he grew up dreaming of playing for England, he qualified for the nation of 500,000 through his Maltese father. The tiny country has lost all seven of their matches in Group C, yet they are not fazed by the challenge of facing England.
“When you look at us, Malta is not the biggest nation. People automatically think we might not be very good,” Jones added. “We have showed that we can win games. We just try to make it difficult for the opposition.
“But on the other side, when we attack, we believe that we can hurt teams. I play up top and I believe I can drop off and make something happen. In my wildest dreams, I believe I can score against England.”
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