John Stones has lifted the lid on adapting to City life, his ambitions for club and country and those touchline chats with Pep.
It’s been a meteoric rise for the Barnsley-born 22 year-old who’s footballing career has already taken him from Tyke to Toffee to Cityzen in the space of just five years.
“A lot has changed but then not a lot has changed” explains the defender.
“I’ve had a change of club, a change of scenery but I’m just enjoying my football which is key for any player. I’ve been enjoying my football for years and it’s just progressed and moved on quite a bit from Barnsley. It’s been a great journey and England-wise as well. I’m just enjoying the new challenges that come.”
Stones’ record move to the Etihad was one of the transfer sagas of the summer window, but has it brought with it an additional weight of expectation?
“It doesn’t bring any pressure to me. It’s not down to the player. I feel privileged to have been bought for that amount of money but at the end of the day it’s what the two clubs agreed – I can’t do anything about that other than thank Man City for allowing me this opportunity and Everton for all that they did for me and allowing me to further my career. It’s as simple as that. Knowing what you’re doing day in day out and trying to keep improving is all you can do really.”
Just seven games into his City career and the centre back has already put in some standout performances under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, but John is taking it all in his stride.
“It’s been amazing. From the first day, not only him but his staff and all the boys, training and playing games and learning everything every day. There’s a lot to take in in the first week with a new environment but it’s the little things that take a while to sink in and get your head around. But when you’re on the training pitch and working you’re at ease and trying to take everything into the games to try and win them. That’s what every player wants to do.”
A regular feature of City games under the stewardship of Guardiola has been the touchline chats between Stones and his new boss during breaks in play, and as the England man explains, they’re are all part of the masterplan.
“(Pep) is talking to me about the opposition, how they’re playing. I suppose it’s easier for me to run over than a midfielder or a striker and I can then tell everyone from there. It’s just little details in games that are good to pass on. It’s all about how we can beat the opposition and that’s what they’re trying to do to us as well. Little formation changes or how we can beat a certain system.”
The ambitious Yorkshireman has also set his sights on being a future skipper at the Etihad.
“I’d like to be captain one day. Every player wants to be captain of their team and to do so for years to come. It’s a privileged position to be in to captain your club and country. These are dreams you dream about when you’re a little boy. You have to deserve the right to be captain but I’d love to be one day and I’ll keep working hard to try to be.”
A characteristic of City’s good work in the opening weeks of the season has been the clear dynamic and togetherness within the camp, and as Stones explains, this is going to be crucial for a successful campaign.
“We’re working hard in training to get on the same page. Everyone around me is vital for me. It’s not a one-man game. They’re all helping me out and it’s great to know that players are always wanting the ball off you, making angles and doing all these things that you put the hard hours on the training ground to take into a Saturday or whenever you’re playing the opposition.”
A new club to settle into and a new goalkeeper to play in front of; Stones shares insight into the impact Claudio Bravo will have on City’s approach.
“It’s good for me knowing I can give him the ball and he’s comfortable within himself to create a pass or make the right decision to clear it up the pitch sometimes. That’s how football is. They can press you high and you’ve got to go long some times. We’re learning that the more games we play and the more times we play with each other.”
With 34 league games and at least five more European clashes to come, we’ve only just scratched the surface on the 2016/17 campaign but what can the Blues achieve this season?
“That’s down to us. It’s in our hands. With every game we go into we’re our biggest downfall I suppose. Every team is because the minute you switch off you’re going to get punished in the Premier League. It’s how it is. Every team is good, there is no easy game and you have to show everyone respect. That’s where we’ll be mentally focused going into every game as we have done so far and we want to carry that on into the rest of the games.”