John Stones wants to make history with England at Euro 2024

John Stones wants to excite the nation and make history as England look to use Jude Bellingham’s great escape act as the “turning point” in their quest to become European champions.

Gareth Southgate’s star-studded side stumbled through the group stage and looked set to fall in the first knockout round as well-drilled Slovakia get hold of their first-half lead.

But Bellingham’s stunning 95th minute overhead kick saved the day and captain Harry Kane’s header in the opening minute of extra-time secured England a rollercoaster 2-1 round of 16 win.

Switzerland now await in Saturday’s Dusseldorf quarter-final and Stones, an ever-present during Southgate’s four tournaments at the helm, knows they need to kick on from that near miss.

“We’ve got to try and bring that (feel good factor) back and that comes with winning, playing well, exciting the nation,” the 76-cap centre-back said.

“We know that they are behind us and that’s an incredible feeling in itself but to not be performing at our peak or as good as we know we can be is frustrating.

John Stones raises his arms after England beat Slovakia
John Stones has been frustrated by England’s performances (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“That’s a point that I’ve made and wanted to get across to everyone that we’ve got to do better, to keep improving, and progressing in this tournament.

“This week’s been great, seen a shift already. Sometimes in these games, in these tournaments, to win when it is not pretty is a positive.

“I know everyone won’t see that in that way but to get over the line in difficult moments not playing well, only leads us to improve and get better and keep striving to play better and hopefully it’ll be a turning point.”

Gareth Southgate oversees England training
Gareth Southgate has faced criticism from the fanbase (Adam Davy/PA)

Southgate has borne the brunt of fans’ frustration during England’s unconvincing start to the Euros, but Stones believes that will only make the under-fire boss “want to win even more”.

There is a determination that his 100th match in charge will not be his last as the Euro 2020 runners-up attempt to go one better and become the nation’s first kings of the continent.

“The biggest thrill for me that I can get out of playing is that winning feeling, to create history for us as a nation, for everyone back home,” said Stones, who downplayed issues over strapping on his right knee.

“For me personally and the lads to do something that has never been done before and win this trophy.

“I kind of simplify it down into all those little things that I’ve just said and trying to create our own history and make something happen.”

Phil Foden in action for England against Slovakia
Phil Foden has failed to set the tournament alight so far (Martin Rickett/PA)

England certainly have the quality to go all the way, but star names like Phil Foden need to get closer to the heights they have achieved at club level.

Manchester City team-mate Stones had tipped the 24-year-old to be player of the tournament this summer and still believes he can reach that level in Germany.

“I do, yeah,” he said. “Phil could turn up at the weekend, score a hat-trick and everything would be forgotten from these past four games.

“I think Phil knows, and we all know, that we can play better. I think he’s been frustrated with his own performances and he’s been training so well, especially these past few days, to correct that.

“If he’s selected to play at the weekend, I’m sure he’ll be on another level of Phil Foden and hopefully this competition what he’s about.

“I know Phil personally and he’s a big thinker about that. I’m sure he’s excited for the weekend.”

Marc Guehi in action against Slovakia
Marc Guehi is suspended against Switzerland (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Southgate is reportedly considering playing Foden and Bellingham as number 10s behind Kane on Saturday, when he would also move to a back three.

Impressive centre-back Marc Guehi is suspended for the quarter-final clash and Stones is ready, if required, to return to a familiar defensive system.

“I’ve not spoken to (Southgate) about it,” he said. “I wouldn’t go to him with potentially a big decision like that.

“We’ve done it in previous tournaments before, though. Germany I remember the last Euros, previously to that in 2018.

“I think it’s a great think to have in the locker for us as a team if we need to go to that and play that system.

“It’s something that shouldn’t be underestimated for us as a team that we can do it so easily and seamlessly, and kind of click together.”