John Stones is a wonderfully talented footballer of that there is no doubt. He will go on to gain masses of caps for England and, if the papers are to be believed, may soon be strutting his stuff at the Camp Nou. However, at the moment he is in serious danger of suffering a major knock to the most important thing a young footballer has, his confidence.
It’s an issue that has been building for a while. Everton fans are becoming frustrated with a perceived lack of urgency amongst their players and are growing impatient at what some would refer to as unnecessary risk taking. From a supporters perspective it’s totally understandable. They are frustrated. Last term they appeared to be on the brink of something special under Roberto Martinez, but this season it just doesn’t seem to have clicked.
Nevertheless, as quick as they are to praise Stones, many pundits are now starting to pick holes in his game. It’s an acceptable thing to do, after all it’s their job and he is making mistakes, no more so than at the weekend, but maybe there should be more care taken when dealing with youngsters.
Stan Collymore stressed how the high-risk strategy being adopted at the back had no place in the Merseysiders’ first-team. The former England forward believes that a Premier League match is not the place to be developing players.
That’s a view surely shared by many Everton fans. It begs the question, if Stones was at Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea etc, would he be allowed to make such mistakes? It is very unlikely.
However, if footballers aren’t given the leeway to make errors, then how will they ever evolve? A team of generic robots would entertain no one. Roberto Martinez gives his players the license to express themselves. It’s a policy that works excellently when you are winning but it’s a hard sell when you are struggling and said mistakes are leading to goals. No man wants their club to be a play thing for players who want to show off.
The Spaniard coaches the players to be comfortable on the ball and build from the back. He would rage at Stones, Funes Mori or even Jagielka for aimlessly lobbing the ball forwards, it’s just not his way. Since his appointment at the club the Toffees faithful have waxed lyrical about the School of Science, at times, however, one thinks they wouldn’t be totally adverse to throwing a little bit of agricultural studies into the mix.
Every player makes mistakes. It’s just routed within the DNA of English football to get very nervous when a players increases the risk of those mistakes happening on a regular basis. Stones is a footballer who is totally confident in his own ability. He plays a high risk game, but he seems willing to take the flak for any errors that do arise.
He’s been seen telling his own fans to calm down on numerous occasions this season. That’s a bold move from one of such tender years. Jamie Carragher branded him cocky at the weekend, and there is a fine line between cocky and confident but it really might just be time to embrace Stones for the footballer he is.
Yes, he’s going to make mistakes, but heaping so much pressure on his young shoulders, and that is not directed at Everton fans, more the wider footballing family, will only serve to make him wary of his natural game. And that would be a tragedy.
It is easy to say that he should be allowed to grow and develop, he’s not making mistakes at the heart of the back four of my club, but as a football fan it would be a great shame should such a magical talent be deterred by the words of those on the outside.
Maybe he needs to play alongside a back to basics centre-half, someone who can nurture but not tame the more exuberant side of his game. It’s no surprise that he looks more at home alongside Phil Jagielka than the more extravagant Funes Mori. Maybe he needs a manager who tells him to put the ball in row z on occasion. Maybe, despite how good he has been, the combination of his skilsl and Martinez's style of play are actually holding back his development?
One thing is for sure he is a talent we should enjoy because if that move to Barcelona emerges in the summer, the Premier League sure will miss him.