Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Critics of Stones Are Just Unfair

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Critics of Stones Are Just Unfair

Article excerpt

JOHN Stones went from brave new symbol of Gareth Southgate's adventurous new England to national disgrace in one moment of aberration.

The sight of the defender slipping up to hand Holland the advantage in last week's European Nations League semi-final brought back a few unhappy memories for City fans.

And it brought the 25-year-old a cascade of criticism, most of it grossly unfair and inaccurate.

Unsurprisingly, it was a Talksport talking head who took it to the ultimate, with Tony Cascarino claiming that Stones had not improved as a centre-back since leaving Everton three years ago.

"He has stagnated as a centrehalf. Of all the players that Pep has improved, John is not one of them," said former Republic of Ireland striker Cascarino.

That is a puzzling assessment to City fans who have watched Stones go from the hesitant, suspect defender who appeared to be struggling in Pep Guardiola's first season to a confident, assertive footballer.

It is true Stones did not figure strongly for the Blues towards the end of last season, but that was simply because the form of Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi was irresistible.

He has centre-half. players improved, one of Tony To slate Stones for that is as unfair as suggesting Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez have gone backwards under Guardiola, as they could not break the stranglehold which Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva had on the wide positions.

Stones' error, which led to Holland's second goal in a 3-1 extra time defeat in the European Nations League, was a reminder of that difficult debut season.

He made errors then, too, and the message from Guardiola was a positive one - keep on playing out from the back, keep taking chances.

Only minutes before his miscalculation, Stones was being lauded as a symbol of Gareth Southgate's bold new football team for pulling off an audacious lofted pass from his own six-yard box. …

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