John Stones was born in Barnsley,South Yorkshire he came through the youth academy at his boyhood club and signed a professional contract in December 2011.You know there’s something special about a player when they make their professional debut as a 17 year old as Stones did in March 2012 against Reading.Ronnie Branson was the academy manager at Barnsley and met John when he was just seven he guided John up through the underage ranks and could see his composure starting to show
“We always encouraged him to play out of the back, and we did that with all the kids – but not all of them can do that ,John was always composed, and willing to do that though. He’s a level-headed kid, which I think helps too. He’s a smashing lad.He’s quite calm and collected on the field”
After breaking into the Barnsley first team he was quickly attracting attention from big clubs he would only get to play 24 games for the town he grew up in before making the move to Merseyside to join Everton for a fee of £3 million in January 2013.Then Everton manager Roberto Martinez was trying to bring an attractive style of football to Goodison Park and he thought Stones was perfect for this.
“he’s incredible on the ball – I haven’t seen another English player who’s got the ability to start play in that manner. He can be left one v one, he’s very good in the air, he reads the game fantastically well and he’s got a terrific ability to adapt to different partners. As a player, the character reflects what he is: very calm, very composed and his potential is quite unique.” – Roberto Martinez
He transferred all the skills and knowledge of how to play the game the right way from the Barnsley academy to the Premier League,As a young ball playing centre back mistakes are going to happen and criticism will come but that composure and confidence the Barnsley academy manager talked about shone through.One moment which really highlights this was when Everton played Spurs and Son Heung-Min was closing Stones down with intent inside his own box he ignored the pleas from the crowd to launch it long and evaded the Spurs attacker with a series of Cruyff turns he won a free-kick and gave a “cool it” gesture to the Everton fans screaming at him to clear the ball.
He amassed 95 appearances for Everton over four seasons and was their young player of the season in 2014-15 before signing for Manchester City in August 2016 for £47.5 million.Pep Guardiola the master of tiki-taka football had just taken over at the Etihad and one of his first signings was the Barnsley born ball playing centre-back,He knew to implement his style of play he would need players who were brave,comfortable on the ball and not afraid to make mistakes,Stones fitted that mould perfectly.Guardiola compared him to Gerard Pique,One of the best ball playing centre-backs of the last 10 years.
“Pique when he started was quite similar. Gerard came here to Manchester and he started playing not so often, but through time he grew stronger. This does not happen in one day or one month, he needs time,I like working with him a lot because he tries to improve. He realises his mistakes, he knows he can be better. He’s always available to help the team and the way he plays is special, strong in the air, defensively has good qualities”
He became a mainstay at the back as Guardiola revolutionised City,In his first three seasons Stones played 109 games in all competitions as City played football the Premier League had never seen before.High intensity pressing,Possession based football and the chase to get it back began as soon as they lost it.City won all before them and broke records along the way.In 2017-18 Manchester City won the Premier League with the biggest winning margin in history (19) points, Registering the most wins in a top flight season (32) most away wins (16) most consecutive wins (18) most goals (106) and they became the first team in Premier League history to collect 100 points in a single season.They also won the league cup that year and backed in up in 2018-19 with another Premier League title another League Cup and an FA Cup where they equalled the record for the biggest win in a final beating Watford 6-0.Stones was an integral part of all this success his ability to play out from the back and keep the ball at all costs that he learned at Barnsley was coming to fruition on the biggest stage.
Stones was named on standby for the 2014 World Cup but didn’t make the final squad,he made his first England start against Norway at Wembley in 2014 and five days later he made his first competitive start in England’s Euro 2016 qualifier vs Switzerland,He was selected in Roy Hodson’s 23 man squad for Euro 2016 but he didn’t feature at all in the tournament.His impressive form at club level helped him become a regular in the national team he has 49 caps for the three lions to his name,He played in the middle of a back three at the 2018 world cup when Gareth Southgate’s men enjoyed a run to the semi-finals,He scored two goals against Panama in the group stage becoming the first Manchester City player to score for England at the World Cup since Trevor Francis in 1982.
Due to a combination of injuries and lack of form he fell down the pecking order at the Etihad in the 2019-20 season he featured 16 times in the Premier League and 24 in all competitions his lowest in the four seasons he was at the club,Compared to 27 League appearances and 41 in all competitions in his first season
Guardiola picked 19 year old Eric Garcia over Stones for City’s crunch Champions League tie with Lyon,If ever there was a moment when Stones thought his Career in the sky blue was over it had to be that.Since Vincent Kompany’s departurne Aymeric Laporte has nailed down his place as the No.1 Centre-back at the club and with the arrivals of Nathan Ake and the highly rated Reuben Dias for big money from Benfica,The writing was on the wall for Stones.
Fast forward to January 2021 and he has just scored in a cup semi-final against bitter rivals Man United to send City on their way to Wembley again and he earned well deserved praise from his manager “Another outstanding performance ,He is playing four, five, six games in a row, which is something he has struggled with. He is so intelligent and clever. He reads the game incredibly well. He was outstanding”
Since he was restored to the line-up he has been back to his brilliant best and City have been keeping clean sheets which has propelled them up the table.He has formed a formidable partnership with Reuben Dias,Chelsea’s injury time goal from Callum Hudson-Odoi is the only goal the pair have conceded in the eight games they have started together.
The City defender last played for England against Montenegro in November 2019 and has not even made the squad for the last three get-togethers post-lockdown,If he keeps up this form he will become hard to ignore for Gareth Southgate.
Manchester City’s record this season
|With Stones||Without Stones|
During his tough spell Stones was absolutely slammed in the media by the most notable pundits with the biggest football platforms
“He has played nearly 100 Premier League games and everyone keeps saying to me and to the rest of the football world, that he is going to be a top player.But I keep seeing John Stones make mistake after mistake after mistake.” – Alan Shearer on Match of the day
“he made a stupid mistake,I don’t think John Stones has kicked on after making that move from Everton, I still don’t feel like he has the 100 per cent backing of Pep Guardiola.” – Jamie Carragher on sky
“He’s got to be stronger, he’s got to be tougher. It’s just too easy, he’s like a child getting knocked off the ball,He’s hoping one of his team-mates can help him out here but they punished and rightly so. Really poor defending, he’s got to be stronger. – Roy Keane on Sky
He was trolled on twitter by Port Vale striker Tom Pope who then when on to score against City in the cup
“Just watched the highlights of the England game! I know I’m a league 2 player, I know he plays for England, I know he’s on £150k a week, I know he’s a million times better player than me but I’d love to play against John Stones every week! I’d get 40 a season!”
Throw all that Criticism on top of problems in his personal life after he split with his Childhood sweetheart Millie Savage who he was dating for over a decade and it makes his return to top form even more impressive,The mental strength he’s shown along with commitment and application to get himself back performing at the top level is remarkable it’s an example to any young footballer who suffers criticism and setbacks in their career.Stones said he is back enjoying his football in a recent interview
“It makes you realise how special it is to be out there and also to realise that when other players aren’t playing, how they feel and what you should do for them when you are on the pitch.There are a lot of aspects you can look at but it is something you cannot take for granted. There is always twists and turns and you have got to grab it with both hands and enjoy it and that is what I am doing.I am really enjoying my football. It always makes it easier when you are winning and keeping clean sheets but I am just trying to move in the right direction and to keep trying to become better as a player and as a team.”
Sam Allardyce said this when asked about John Stones back in 2016
“Rio Ferdinand made sense to me. He got it exactly right. He was very similar at a young age. People said he overplayed and kept getting caught out but, by the age of 25 or 26, he was one of the best centre‑backs in the world as a defender who could play as well.”
Stones is 26 now he’s come out the other side of a very sticky patch in his career,He seems to have learned from his mistakes and looks a lot stronger mentally.City are starting to see the John Stones they paid £47.5 million for in 2016 if he can continue this rich vein of form it will put City in a good place to earn more silverware this season.
Stones has made 169 appearances in the Premier League winning it twice along with three League Cups two Community Shields and an FA Cup,Capped 49 times for his Country and played in a World Cup.Not bad for a young lad from South Yorkshire.