STEPHEN Craigan has accused Jordan Jones of being naive and disrespectful in the wake of striking a deal to join Rangers and warned Kilmarnock fans could turn against the winger in the second half of the season and make his position at Rugby Park untenable.
Jones took to social media website Twitter after signing a pre-contract agreement with the Ibrox club last week and stated the moment was “a dream come true” before signing off “WATP” (We Are The People).
His post, which appeared on the day of Kilmarnock’s 150th anniversary, has been badly received by many Rugby Park supporters and prompted Barry Richmond, a Kilmarnock Trust director, to call for him to be dropped.
Speaking as Premier Sports unveiled their presenting team for the William Hill Scottish Cup at Hampden, former Northern Ireland captain Craigan branded his countryman’s actions ill-advised and predicted they could have far-reaching consequences.
“It’s naive by Jordan,” he said. “I don’t know him personally, so I don’t know what his motives are. But it’s naive, to say the least. I’d be surprised if someone has advised him on that. It could be just a personal thing.
“I’m a big believer that if you’re going to earn brownie points from a club you’re going to earn it from your playing style. Let the fans buy into what you do when you’re playing.
“I think he’s disrespected Kilmarnock a little bit. If you’ve been a season ticket holder for 40 or 50 years and you see one of the best players you’ve been watching for years doing this, there’s a tinge of disappointment.”
Craigan also feels that Steve Clarke, the Kilmarnock manager, may decide to leave Jones out of his side if fans turn on the player, who joined the Rugby Park club in 2016 after being released by Middlesbrough.
“It’ll be interesting when Steve Clarke names his next XI,” he said. “Will he be in it? That will tell you more about how the manager feels or what he’s said to his board about it. It certainly puts him under scrutiny. There’s more people watching. It will be interesting to see how the Kilmarnock fans react to him when he’s playing. I know people say you don’t really listen to the fans and you get on with your own game, but when there’s a few noises coming from your own fans it will certainly affect performances.
“Does he put him in, knowing there’s a bit of criticism coming from his own supporters, or does he leave him out, which could be detrimental to the team. That’s the hard balancing act that Steve Clarke has to do. He has to find the balance.
“The first league game is against Rangers, so that may speed up the process of trying to get him moving now.
“The cup game against Forfar [at Rugby Park on Saturday] won’t be a huge issue, but if he’s still at Kilmarnock come the Rangers match, it will be interesting to see what happens.”
Asked if he thought the situation could potentially make Jones’ position at Kilmarnock untenable, Craigan said: “Well, it would certainly look that way.
“Steve Clarke has to think: ‘Do we take a reduced fee now and get a chance to strengthen that position or keep the player who isn’t committed long term and is getting the wrath of the supporters?’ It may upset the team who’ve been in such good form.
“He hasn’t played every game this season, there’s been some where he’s been left out and they’ve got a result. It’s just another challenge for a manager.
“The next couple of games will show if his position is untenable. It’s hard to say just now because he hasn’t played, but once he gets into the team, I think the Kilmarnock fans are going to go for him. Steve Clarke will then have a big decision to make.”
Craigan stressed that neither Jones nor Rangers, who had a bid of £350,000 for the player turned down last January, had acted improperly, but suggested that both Clarke and his team-mates would be unhappy.
“I think it will disappoint Steve Clarke,” he said. “The rules are in place and there’s no getting away from it. Do I like the pre-contracts? No I don’t. I think it was put in place for the top, top players. The Bosman rule and pre-contracts was put in place so the top players could move freely.
“When it starts affecting smaller clubs and this sort of challenge from Kilmarnock. There’s no doubt it’s had an effect. Steve Clarke may come out and play it down, but it’s had an effect. He’s one of the most important players in the squad.
“Now the credibility of him staying at Kilmarnock and the credibility of Kilmarnock going for a title have been affected. There is upheaval and upset in the dressing-room. I just think it’s moments like this when you think this rule shouldn’t be in place.
“Nobody’s done anything wrong. Rangers and Jordan Jones are playing by the rules. But from what I’ve read and understand, there’s a lot of unhappiness in the Kilmarnock area about what’s going on. If he was signing for someone in England, it might have been easier, but he’s signing for a so-called title rival at the time.
“People say Rangers are being cute doing it right now, but they’ve been after him for a while. They’ve just been waiting for the right time to get it over the line.
“They’ve kept their nose clean, but if you’re a player in the Kilmarnock dressing-room, you’d be disappointed – mot that he’s going to Rangers, that you’re losing a player who could be so important to you.
“He’s an impact player and you’re losing him at important time of the season when you’ve had a great 2018.
“I’m sure many managers have had this over the years when you think you’re building a team and a squad that’s looking good, then your best players start disappearing. It’s hard to hold on to them. People keep saying go into management, then you see this sort of situation where things are going nicely, he’s building a good squad and then suddenly this sort of thing comes up.”
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