Men's Team

Steve Howey: Stones and Walker brilliant despite England defeat

Steve Howey: Stones and Walker brilliant despite England defeat
Former City and England central defender Steve Howey says that John Stones and Kyle Walker emerged as two of the unsung heroes of the Three Lions’ memorable Euro 2020 campaign.

Though the pair suffered heartbreak in Sunday night’s final against Italy, the 3-2 penalty shoot-out loss didn’t detract from the superb way the City defensive duo, along with rest of Gareth Southgate’s squad, have conducted themselves on and off the pitch.

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Fulcrums of the City backline that proved such a key component of our 2020/21 Premier League and Carabao Cup winning campaigns, Stones and Walker transferred that superb form onto the international stage.

And Howey – who was part of the England squad at Euro 96 and who went on to enjoy three successful seasons at City between 2000 and 2003 – said the pair had been reassuring ‘rocks’ in the Three Lions’ back-line.

“When you look at the tournament overall, I think John and Kyle have been absolutely brilliant,” Howey asserted.

WATCH: The best of John Stones

“We all know where John went through a period where he had injuries and wasn’t maybe playing as much.

“But since he returned to City side last season, he formed an unbelievable partnership with Ruben Dias and was superb at Club level and has carried that on with England at the Euros.

“As for Kyle Walker, he has been so consistent and classy all the way through.

“I mean he’s not a spring chicken anymore but seriously he’s still so quick and, as we have seen through the Euros, he is so rapid and gets sides out of trouble with his pace and positioning.

“He and John has been absolutely outstanding as have all of the lads.

“It has been great to see – and it’s wonderful as they are and the rest of the squad are humble, normal lads whom we can all relate to.

“I think they have been real rocks and absolutely brilliant.”

WATCH: Quickfire questions: Kyle Walker

As a former centre half himself, Howey said he garnered particular satisfaction in watching Stones’ measured, classy performances on the most demanding of stages.

And he believes that at just 27, Stones’ best years could still be in front of him.

“I can remember many years ago I attended a coaches’ meeting alongside Roberto Martinez when he was Everton manager and John was still playing at Goodison.

“I told Roberto that I was already very impressed with John, with his distribution and confidence.

“Then John went to City and did fantastically well when he went there but then, like every player, he had a little dip with injury.

“But he has come back so much bigger, so much better and so much stronger.

“And at his age you would say that his best years are still very much ahead of him.

“The experiences he has had with City and England over the past 12 months have been superb.

“He is already a top, top player but you would say he can still get even better which is fantastic for City looking to the future.”

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