John Stones turning hard times around

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Manchester City defender John Stones could cap a remarkable turnaround from a virtual outcast to being at the cutting edge of Pep Guardiola’s masterplan with a Champions League victory.

The future of John Stones was uncertain few years ago, when the defender had just made 24 appearances in the 2019-20 season and the club had spent over £100million to bring in Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias.

That summer Guardiola admitted there was a distinct possibility a player lacking confidence could leave and he did not play a minute in seven of the eight opening league games of the next season.

But over the course of three seasons he has turned things around so much he is now seen as an integral part of his manager’s latest tactical tweak, with the current fashion for a defender to play as a midfielder when the side is in possession.

“It was probably one of the hardest times in my career,” said Stones of that period in 2020.

“I literally went back to firstly looking at myself, being super-critical of myself and what I could do better on the football pitch, and then looking into every fine detail, down to what food, what training, what extras.

“That’s come down to doing stuff here and then going home and doing work, even late at night, or straight after the training, finding these small margins, putting them all together to kind of break where I was at after coming back to playing.

“Yeah, (it was a) big learning curve for me and maybe who I am today.”

In that time period a number of players have left, with Guardiola’s propensity for dispensing with full-backs a little too close for comfort at times for Stones.

But the former Everton defender never considered seeking opportunities elsewhere.

“I never thought about that. I think as soon as you accept that or have that mindset then you have killed yourself,” he added.

“I always wanted to stay, I have stayed and I absolutely love it. I wanted to prove to myself. I didn’t say to anyone ‘It was because I want to prove to you’.

“I think, if anything, you have to prove to yourself first and foremost that you deserve to be here, you are good enough to be here, and what you bring to the team.”

 

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