John Stones admits it is a great feeling to be back in the England fold and believes he and his Manchester City team-mates can bring a winning mentality to the Three Lions as they challenge for European Championship glory.
The likes of Stones, Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden could be heading into the rearranged tournament on the back of winning four major honours with their club.
This season has been key for Stones, who has re-established himself in the City side, often partnering Ruben Dias – whose summer arrival many thought spelled the end of the England international’s time at the Etihad Stadium.
Instead, a string of standout performances have seen Stones recalled to the England squad for the first time since November 2019.
“It was very tough and I think it would be the same for everyone,” the 26-year-old said about watching England games on television.
“It was difficult watching from home. You feel a bit helpless that you can’t contribute and be a part of the squad, but I used it as a motivation to strive to be better.
“When I got the text the other day, it was a great feeling to be back involved and see all the faces I’ve got some great memories with.
“I was very nervous. I had worked so hard and I was hearing people say, ‘You should be in’. But I didn’t take any of that in until the text arrived. I wanted to hear from the source. I was absolutely made up.”
Stones, who joined City from Everton in a big-money deal in August 2016, insists the arrival of Dias and other high-profile names only force him into becoming a better player to retain his place in Pep Guardiola’s side.
“I believe that as a club and a whole organisation we need to keep evolving and striving to be better,” he said.
“Those players coming in – and taking nothing away from them and how well they have done – it was added motivation to step up and prove my worth.
“I went away and did all the things that I needed to do. As a player, you can never rest when things are easy – everything is a challenge.”
On his England recall, Stones added: “I think I wanted to prove it to myself more than anyone else. Proving to myself was more satisfying to do.
“To go out there and show people, you have got an added pressure but the person I am trying to do it for – or prove to – is myself and that is the most satisfying thing.”
Guardiola could yet lead City to an unprecedented quadruple this season – with a Carabao Cup final date with Tottenham to come next month, a meeting with Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals, a place in the last eight of the Champions League and a 14-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
“Definitely,” Stones replied when asked if winning all four trophies and bringing that winning mentality into the England squad for the Euros could be key.
“I’d love everyone to be coming in camp after winning something but that’s not possible.
“But that winning mentality that if we can bring that into the England squad it would be invaluable I think.
“For the experience that we’ve been through in tournaments, especially the last World Cup that we had and how successful – I know it wasn’t successful as in winning – but successful in how we played, how far we got and how we changed the nation’s view on us in tournament football.
“So, I think it would be massive for us if we can keep pushing and keep fighting until the end of the season and see what happens.
“But definitely the keyword is that winning mentality and us bringing it to the England squad, as I said, would be invaluable.”