City star struggled after his £50M move but he’s now showing his true class – and his cool head has Southgate purring
JOHN STONES admits he had to take a “good look” at himself during a difficult first season at Manchester City.
Stones came under intense scrutiny as a sprinkling of errors characterised an inconsistent start at the Etihad.
After signing for just short of £50million, Stones had to cope with every one of his mistakes being magnified, especially as he has been held up as a future England captain for some time.
He lost his status as an automatic Pep Guardiola choice, but has been in impressive form this season and has started 10 of City’s 11 Premier League games.
Stones, who is in the first XI against Germany tonight, believes he is still on a steep learning curve.
He said: “You’ve seen a different me. That’s through the hard work of last season, pre-season and trying to bring that into this season.
“I’ve had to take dips and have a good look at myself. You’ve got to look at yourself after every game. There were never any really massive lows. It was always me, personally, knowing that I’d let myself down in things I’d done.
“It might be a small thing, losing a pass, which any player takes to heart.
“But there’s always something I can learn and coming here gives me a different insight, too.
“The manager here might say different things, things I’m not noticing at my club. So it’s a different challenge.”
It is a challenge that he will have for a long time, with Southgate making it clear Stones is THE future of English defending.
The England manager could not have been more effusive in his praise of the 23-year-old, saying: “He has as much composure as any defender I’ve seen in Europe.
“I saw Jerome Boateng at Manchester City when he was a kid and nobody would have predicted him going on to do what he has done.
“I saw Gerard Pique at Middlesbrough when he was playing for Man United and he was at fault for a couple of the goals.
“You never would have seen him being where he was a couple of years later.
“And John has attributes that those guys have. He has presence in the opposition penalty box now, he has the mindset that he wants to learn and improve.
“He’s got a really bright future and he’s the type of defender we want playing for our country.”
Ahead of the Germany game, he brought Stones to the pre-match press conference, prompting speculation he could skipper the side.
“Sorry, no he’s not,” said Southgate, wrapping an arm around him. It might not be too far off, though.
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