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John Stones says the experience of being left out of the England squad means he will never complain about the gruelling international schedule and urged teammates to “cherish” occasions like Tuesday night’s clash with Germany.
England travel to Munich in the second of four Nations League games in ten days, a run which comes at the end of a lengthy club season.
Stones’ Manchester City teammate Kevin De Bruyne last week criticised the scheduling and called the matches “glorified friendlies” but when asked about the challenge of being motivated for the games, the centre-back said: “I think it’s easy. You’ve got to always be ready and fighting.
“The feeling in the camp is that we’d play all year round if we could. That’s probably not possible with the amount of fixtures but we’re there, we’re willing and we know how important this period is for us with not much time or many games leading up to the World Cup.
“Everyone’s fighting for their place, wanting to play well, trying to create partnerships, learn each other’s games.”
Stones was a key part of the sides that reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and final of Euro 2020, but in between went more than a year without a call-up after losing his form and his place at Man City.
“I speak from my personal experience from when I was out of the team and it hurt,” he added. “You want to be here and you’ve got to deserve to be here so when you’re here you’ve got to make the most of it.
“To play in big games like this, you can only cherish the moment and maximise what’s in front of you.”
Tuesday night’s game will be the first meeting between the two sides since England’s famous 2-0 victory at Wembley in the last-16 of the European Championships last summer.
The win was a landmark moment for Gareth Southgate’s side, who had not beaten Germany in a knockout game since the 1966 World Cup final.
“It was an incredible stage we beat them on, home turf, and it was a big step for us as a team and as a nation,” Stones said.
“To progress in that tournament, but also to show ourselves what we’re capable of. We’ve set a marker now where we’ve got to replicate things like that, to be consistent at winning, beating big teams, playing well against them, and that’s the challenge for us now. We’ve set the bar.”