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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 18:00 GMT
Wales return delights Jones
Matthew Jones impressed against Bosnia-Herzegovina
Matthew Jones was soon in the thick of things

It took Matthew Jones just 30 minutes on Wednesday night to force his way back into the thoughts of Wales manager Mark Hughes.

The Leicester midfielder has only just returned to senior action after 11 months out with a serious knee injury.

Captain of the Under-21s, he was the first of the new generation that Hughes has encouraged through the ranks.

Jones made his senior debut as an 18-year-old when he came on as a substitute against Switzerland more than three years ago.

Since then Craig Bellamy, Simon Davies, Robert Earnshaw, Danny Gabbidon and Rhys Weston from the Under-21s side have bustled past him into the senior side.

It is a Wales side who have created national history with an unbeaten nine-match run that even betters the World Cup qualifying heroes of 1958.

But Hughes, in Wednesday's friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Cardiff, needed desperately to search for a replacement for long-term injury victim Mark Delaney at right back.

For the first hour he gave Weston - initially a centre half who plays at right back for Cardiff - his chance, but pace is vital for the role and young Weston does not have much.

Cue Llanelli-born Jones, bristling with intent and determination to make up for lost time.

Now we are in a position where we could get to a major finals. I just hope I can be part of that

Matthew Jones

In that half hour Hughes was shown that he can trust the youngster next month when the crunch Euro 2004 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Serbia-Montenegro - formerly Yugoslavia - come round.

The two matches over five days in March will shape Wales' bid to book a place in next summer's finals in Portugal.

Hughes was cagey afterwards and coach Eddie Niedzwiecki made the point later that Weston had been up against the outstanding Galatasaray winger Elvir Baljic, who scored Bosnia's first.

Niedzwiecki said: "Baljic was once transferred to Real Madrid for about 17million, so he's top class."

Jones had 19 minutes against him, a ruffled Weston an hour, but it seems that Hughes may have seen enough.

"Matty did well when he came on, he's played there before in his Leeds United games in the first and reserve teams and he acquitted himself quite well," Hughes said.

Jones, though, was just delighted to be back, after being little more than a frustrated spectator of Wales' historic nine-match unbeaten run.

"Eighteen months ago was my last Wales game. It's fantastic to be back, I'm living on adrenaline now and it's wonderful to be in the national squad again," Jones said.

"I ruptured the cruciate in my right knee and I've had a reconstruction of the knee done - it's been a long road back.

"I had to sit and watch as Leicester went down and I came to all the Wales games in Cardiff, going into the dressing room to wish the lads well and then cheering them on from the stands.

"Now we are in a position where we could get to a major finals. I just hope I can be part of that.

"I feel Leicester will be promoted, and I'm in a strong position to not only get myself back regularly for Leicester but also for Wales. I'm knocking on doors now."

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Wednesday's games

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13 Feb 03 | Wales
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