Former Plymouth Argyle prospects make mark on Euro stage
TWO FORMER Argyle youth products who were sold while the Pilgrims were in administration in 2011 are making their mark at European and international level.
Centre-back Lloyd Jones, a former Devonport High School for Boys student, is in his second season as an academy scholar at Liverpool.
He played for the Reds in their first group game of the 2012/13 NextGen Series, a 3-2 defeat at Italian side Inter Milan last week.
The NextGen Series is a Champions League-style tournament with 24 clubs from across Europe taking part.
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Meanwhile, Torpoint-born Jack Stephens has been called up to the England under-19 squad for the first time.
The versatile Southampton defender was capped once by his country at under-18 level earlier this year.
England are taking part in the first qualifying round for the European Under-19 Championship in Estonia this week.
Jones cost Liverpool £20,000 when they signed him from cash-strapped Argyle as a 15-year-old in the summer of 2011.
Such has been his progress with the five-times European champions, he has already been awarded his first professional contract for the two seasons after this one.
Liverpool are in Group 5 of the NextGen Series, along with Germany's Borussia Dortmund and Rosenborg, of Norway.
It is the second season of the tournament, and Liverpool finished third in the inaugural event.
They lost to Ajax, of the Netherlands, in the semi-finals, but beat French side Marseille in the third and fourth place play-off.
Liverpool's squad for the game against defending champions Inter last week consisted mainly of their under-18s squad, including Plymouth-born Jones.
He played the whole game at centre-back and thought the Reds gave a good account of themselves despite their defeat.
On social network site Twitter, Jones said: "We were unlucky not to at least get a point," and added it had been 'a great experience' to play against Inter.
It was the first time 6ft 3in Jones had lined up for Liverpool in a European competition. Their next game is away to Borussia Dortmund on October 31.
Other clubs taking part in the NextGen Series are Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, as well as Barcelona, CSKA Moscow, Juventus, PSV Eindhoven and Paris St Germain.
The top two sides in each of six groups, plus the four third-placed teams with the most points, will qualify for the knockout stage.
Stephens, 18, was signed by Southampton from Argyle for £150,000 in April 2011, after making six first team appearances for the Pilgrims, including three starts.
He has played once for the Saints' senior side, as a substitute in an FA Cup third round tie at Coventry City in January.
England are in Group 12 of the first qualifying round for the European Under-19 Championship.
All three of their games will be played in the Estonian capital of Tallinn, and they start against the host nation tomorrow.
England will then take on the Faroe Islands on Friday before playing Ukraine on Monday, October 1.
The top two countries in each of the 12 groups, plus the best third-placed nation, will progress to the elite qualifying round next spring.
Stephens, a former Torpoint Community College student, flew out to Estonia with the England under-19 squad on Sunday.
England's head coach is former Exeter City manager Noel Blake.