John Stones: A lot of the U21s are ready for Senior service

Thursday 04 Jun 2015
Stones has featured for the seniors on four occasions
Having already been capped by England at senior level, John Stones is something of an inspiration to the rest of his Under-21s squad-mates.

The Everton defender played for the majority of the U21 qualifying campaign as Gareth Southgate’s squad secured their place in this summer’s Euro Finals in Czech Republic.

His accomplished performances for both the U21s and the Toffees then earned him a call-up to Roy Hodgson’s senior squad ahead of last summer’s World Cup.

England v Belarus

A Vauxhalll International Match
7.45pm, Thursday 11 June 2015
Oakwell, Barnsley FC
Live on BT Sport
Call 0871 6622777 for tickets

And having had a taste of both camps, Stones expects a host of his team-mates to flourish at the highest level.

"In this group, I think there are a number of players who can make the step up," said Stones, who will head back to his hometown club Barnsley for next week’s final preparation game with Belarus.

"I want to do that, and every player in that dressing room wants to be in the senior squad.

"Having been and played with the senior squad, it makes me hungry to do well and get back in there, along with the all other lads who are thinking the same."

After flying through the qualifying group and beating Croatia in the play-offs to secure their place in the Euro Finals, England have since faced, and beaten, a number of fellow finalists.

There have been victories over Portugal, Czech Republic and Germany in the last few months and Stones knows that the performances in those games leave Southgate with some tough choices to make.

John Stones Roy Hodgson

Stones has played under Roy Hodgson for the seniors

"The squad that we’ve got, and I know the manager will like to have this problem, means that it’s so hard to pick the team," he added. 

"Everyone’s at such a good level in games and in training so it makes his job hard.

"But, it’s a good decision to have when everyone is performing and wants to play and everyone is so close to playing. 

"We’ve got strength in depth, we’re not relying on one or two players to show a bit of magic, we’ve got that in abundance so it only gives us confidence of winning the games."

The final match before the squad head out to their Euro base in Olomouc next weekend takes place at a venue Stones knows well.

After coming through the youth academy at Oakwell, he was handed his Barnsley debut at the age of 17 and his marauding performances quickly had the scouts flocking to South Yorkshire.

He has not played at Oakwell since, but is looking forward to having the chance of doing it in an England shirt next week and giving the Barnsley public a good show.

"Going to Oakwell and hopefully showing our skills and what we can do, will be perfect for me," he admitted.

"I think we’ve had a great balance of games that we’ve played, but this is our final match before we go to the Finals and a chance to put into practice what we’ve been working on.

"I’m really looking forward to it and it will be nice to see everyone as I still have a lot of friends."

A full interview with Stones about his time and development at Oakwell will appear in the official match programme for the game, which will be on sale next week.

Tickets for the Belarus game are on sale now, priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions. Call 0871 2266777 or e-mail boxoffice@barnsleyfc.co.uk for more details.

By Nicholas Veevers At St. George's Park