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Monday 24 September 2018

Stones aims to be a rock for England

Friendly international England v Italy, Live, ITV (KO 8.0)

John Stones
John Stones

John Stones is looking forward to lining up in an England shirt for the second time in five days after going from linchpin to bench-warmer at Manchester City.

Stones started all but two of City's first 18 games of the season across every competition but has faded from view after his momentum was stalled by a hamstring injury in November.

Amid stiff competition from fellow centre-backs Nicolas Otamendi, Vincent Kompany and January signing Aymeric Laporte, Stones last started a Premier League game for the runaway table-toppers on January 20.

He was also overlooked for the final of the League  Cup, watching from the sidelines as City defeated Arsenal 3-0, and may face a light workload between now and the World Cup.

But the 23-year-old's place at the heart of the national side seems unlikely to be affected and he looks set to follow up 90 minutes in Friday's 1-0 win over Holland with another outing against Italy tonight.

"I've had a lot of time out to be fair," he said. "It's difficult. Every player wants to play week in, week out but I've had games here and there. I've been fighting and that's all you can do: train hard, keep working hard and when your chance comes you've got to take it and that's what I've done, stayed positive.

"I've had the players' backing and the manager's backing, it's one of those things where the team's winning games and playing well and you can't get back in just like that."

Searching hard for good news, he added: "It's tough, but I've got my first medal so I can't complain."

While Pep Guardiola has found others to take care of business at the back, Southgate is not likely to find a more natural ball-playing defender to build his back three around.

"Gareth has picked me this time and I've just got to take my chance when I get out on the pitch," he said.

"I felt sharp and back to myself (against Holland) and I want to build on that."

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