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It was the moment Graeme Jones had been waiting for.
There may have only been around 7,000 supporters present for England s Euro 2020 warm-up friendly against Austria at the Riverside, but you can bet the Three Lions new arrival had a lump in his throat when he stood for the anthem.
Jones is a proud Englishman and the Gateshead native previously felt a little torn when he heard his countrymen belt out God Save the Queen while he was working for Belgium at the World Cup three years ago.
However, while Jones found it strange coming up against homeland, and friend Gareth Southgate, on two separate occasions in Russia, the assistant did not want to go home empty handed.
You do not live away from your family in Waterloo for two years if you are not serious about your job, after all, so Jones was desperate to see Belgium beat England in the tournament s third-place play-off.
Belgium may have raced into a 1-0 lead in St Petersburg that day but Jones delivered an impassioned speech at half-time, imploring Roberto Martinez s side to finish the job.
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These play-offs can sometimes be seen as fairly meaningless affairs by outsiders but Jones, who had to work hard to command the respect of these stars, told the squad how much it would mean to him to get a bronze medal.
At one point, Marouane Fellaini, who had known Jones since their time at Everton, asked the man he called coach if he was joking.
“No, I m not joking,” Jones fired back. “This is serious business here, Marouane. I want to win.”
Belgium went on to win the game 2-0 and you will not be surprised to learn that the bronze medal Jones was awarded that day is one of the proudest possessions in his safe.
Jones felt life with Martinez could not get any better and, after nearly 13 years together, the assistant went it alone and became a manager in his own right at Luton.
That spell at Kenilworth Road did not work out but Jones learnt an awful lot from his first experience as a manager and recognised, for instance, that you can control games without the ball as well as with it.
Graeme Jones passes on instructions to Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron during Newcastle United s game against Southampton at St James Park on February 6, 2021
Rather than waiting for another job as a manager, Jones took that experience into a first-team coaching role with Bournemouth before Newcastle, his boyhood club, came calling.
Just as Jones had been struck by Steve Bruce s honesty when the pair first met in London earlier this year, the Newcastle head coach liked what the Gateshead native had to say and some of the ideas he already had.
Bruce has been supported by long-time allies Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence since his time in charge of Hull, but the 60-year-old wanted to bring in a fresh voice.
Jones already had experience of working alongside a team of coaches at Bournemouth and the straight talker, who vowed to have no pre-conceived ideas about anyone at the club, has slotted into the existing set-up.
There have been many factors behind Newcastle s strong finish to the campaign – Joe Willock s goals, a switch to a 3-5-2, the return of Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin and the resilience of stalwarts like Matt Ritchie and Jacob Murphy – and Bruce s decision to bring Jones in has certainly been one of them.
Jones, after all, takes charge of training most days. ChronicleLive understands Newcastle players have been struck by how they never know what is coming on a particular day at Benton because Jones changes up the drills so much, which keeps them stimulated, and the assistant s finishing drills, in particular, have proved popular.
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Jones attention to detail has also been welcomed and it is not a coincidence that you often see the assistant sitting in front of an iPad.
When it comes to post-match analysis, at Luton, for example, Jones used to spend four hours analysing the Hatters play before then watching the opposition for a further four hours.
As a result, Jones felt informed enough to be able to plan the subsequent session, arriving into Luton s training ground three-and-a-half hours before training was due to get under way.
Gary Brabin, who is Jones best friend, has seen this level of detail firsthand and the former Luton assistant believes the 51-year-old has probably been Steve Bruce s best signing this season .
“I know he comes in and he s very thorough in his work and I think when you see the way he works, people buy into that,” Brabin told ChronicleLive. “Someone like Graeme unites people and people want to buy into that.
Graeme Jones and Gary Brabin ahead of Luton s game against Huddersfield at Kenilworth Road on August 31, 2019
“At the end of the day, we re all in this industry for the same thing and players want to play football.
“If the attention is there for them, and the guidance is there for them, they will buy into that and I m sure that will have made a big impact at Newcastle when he has come in.”
Jones work has not gone unnoticed and when Allan Russell, England s striker coach, unexpectedly stepped down last month, Gareth Southgate reached out.
Jones and Southgate have known each other since 2008, when they did their Pro Licence together, and have remained in touch ever since.
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Although Jones turned down the chance to assist Southgate when he was in charge of England s under-21s, because he had his hands full at Everton at the time, the Gateshead native did not have to think twice when Newcastle gave him permission to take up a role with the Three Lions backroom team at Euro 2020.
Malcolm Crosby, who previously served as Southgate s assistant at Middlesbrough and also studied for his Pro Licence alongside Jones, can see why the England boss has brought the Newcastle No 2 into the fold.
“He s got a very good coach, Steve Holland, working him anyway but it s a big tournament and to have another set of eyes and ears and have the knowledge is what he is looking for in thinking, Let s have that, ” Crosby told ChronicleLive.
“I m sure Graeme will come to the party with certain decisions, which might help. If you feel that there s someone that can help the team a little bit to go towards winning something then you re going to do that.”
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