John Stones deserves to go to the World Cup

Michael Steele

If Roy Hodgson is, as claimed, going to experiment with a youthful squad at this summer's World Cup, then John Stones should be included in his plans.

With this summer's Brazilian extravaganza just two months away, talk is starting to drift towards who will, and who won't, be on the plane to South America.

For the first time nearly 20 years England will head into the tournament with low expectations, with a run to the quarter-finals seen as the best they can achieve.

That is in sharp contrast to previous tournaments, where reaching the last eight was deemed a minimum achievement for some and a failure by others.

The ill-fated 'Golden generation' were hamstrung by that unfortunate tagline as they never were never really as good as many believed them to be.

But with most of those players reaching the end of their international careers, those succeeding them in the international side will no longer have to deal with such pressure of expectation. And as such may have the freedom to make mistakes that their predecessors never had.

Neither will Hodgson, meaning he is in the unique situation of being able to experiment at a World Cup finals knowing failure is unlikely to cost him his job.

To that end, there is talk of the dying embers of the golden generation being ditched in favour of younger, inexperienced players.

Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana at Southampton, Liverpool's Raheem Sterling and Everton's very own Ross Barkley are being tipped as central figures in England's re-building plans.

All these players are a new breed of English footballer, with the focus on technical ability rather than just the brute force and bulldog spirit of old. A glimpse into England's brave new world.

If they are to be included, then John Stones also deserves to join them on the plane this June.

He too is part of the new generation of cultured footballer, a fearless defender who is not just a blocker, but someone who can stride forward into the opposition's half and build attacks.

The centre of defence is a relative weak spot in this England side. Gary Cahill and our captain Phil Jagielka are quality centre halves no mistake, and you can bet your bottom dollar they will put their bodies on the line to keep out opposing strikers this summer. But they lack that offensive zeal the modern defender seems to require, the type of player England have lacked since Rio Ferdinand quit international football.

In the past I have been skeptical about Everton players being called up to international squad. It usually exposed them to the temptations of moves elsewhere - international duty is a great way of tapping up players.

There is also the argument that Stones would be better off having a rest following an excellent first full season at Premier League level.

But this is a different side now we are part of Robert Martinez's grand vision of footballing excellence. And Stones could well be one of four Everton players in the England squad, something we haven't had since the 1986 World Cup.

We are an attractive proposition again where potential can be fulfilled.

The experience of a World Cup, even if he doesn't play, would also be invaluable for Stones and he would no doubt return back to Finch Farm a better player.

He is also unlikely to be pilloried should England struggle, given we don't expect the team to do very well and appreciate these players are still a long way from reaching their peak.

He can then, alongside James McCarthy, Barkley and (possibly) Romelu Lukaku, form the backbone of a new Everton side that can compete at the very top for years to come.

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