John Stones addresses potential England midfield role after Man City success

John Stones addresses potential England midfield role after Man City success

John Stones says he would “100 per cent” relish the chance to play in midfield for England - but is yet to discuss the subject with Gareth Southgate.

The Three Lions boss has a midfield dilemma to solve ahead of Euro 2024, with Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice certain starters but one place still very much up for grabs.

Southgate had reportedly hoped to use Saturday night’s friendly with Brazil, as well as next week’s against Belgium, to give Trent Alexander-Arnold a chance to shine in midfield, but the Liverpool man is out injured.

Kalvin Phillips has been dropped because of his lack of form at West Ham, while Jordan Henderson is in Southgate’s squad but will miss the Brazil game through injury.

That leaves Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher and 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo, who was drafted into the squad earlier this week, as the only specialist options available.

Stones, however, represents an intriguing alternative. A centre-back by trade, the 29-year-old is in the form of his life playing in midfield for Manchester City and when asked whether he would like the opportunity to reprise that role for England, said: “100 per cent, I’d love to do it. It’s what I do at my club.”

“We’ve not spoken about anything,” he added. “I think Gareth knows how he wants to play. He knows everyone’s attributes, knows my attributes and watches the games a lot.

“If he’s got any thoughts of that, I’d obviously love to do it and try and help the team in any way possible. Maybe it’s something we might speak about in then future, I’m not too sure.”

Moving Stones into midfield would leave Southgate with a hole to fill at centre-back, with the former Everton man having developed into one of England’s most reliable performers, winning the majority of his 69 caps under the current regime and excelling at the past three major tournaments.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It is somewhat ironic that the ball-playing skills that have allowed Stones’s midfield transition under Pep Guardiola once threatened to undermine his international career. For much of his early career, the defender was prone to overplaying, with criticism particularly fierce in the aftermath of the twin errors that cost England dear in a semi-final defeat to the Netherlands in the inaugural Nations League in 2019.

"Those tough times honestly made me as a player,” Stones said. “It's never nice going through them but on the other side looking back you recognise not to do it again and how much it makes you grow as a person with the mental toughness to come through those things.

“I've always bought into what what my managers and coaches have said from such a young age and I've been lucky to have fitted into how they wanted to play as that ball-playing centre-half, playing out from the back.

“I think as any player does, I had periods of choosing the wrong moments to do it. Which I had to learn, and I watched a lot of footage back of training and games, in certain aspects, where I'd not done it right. And I learned that way.”