Everton and England defender John Stones has revealed that one life changing summer helped him make it to the top amid uncertainty over whether he’d even make the grade at former club Barnsley.
The 20-year-old, now an Everton regular told The Times; “I was actually held behind for two years. I played down, a year below my age group, when I was 14 or 15, playing with lads who were younger than me.”
Central defender Stones’s physical development was cited as an issue at Oakwell while Ronnie Branson, Academy Manager at Barnsley, recently said “he wasn’t even the best player in the under 14 group at the time,” however one summer changed everything.
“It was tough, being told that, but I was small at the time. I think it was a kick up the bum, too, a reminder that you need to start producing I suppose I dug in and it paid off.”
He added: “I think it was my size more than anything. I just shot up one summer. No one could believe it. My size changed and, with that, I think my mentality changed too.”
“It probably just clicked. I came back fitter, stronger and I could compete with lads my age.”
“I just kicked on. I came back into my normal age group and then I quickly went up into the under-18s at 16, made my first-team debut at 17. That was probably a life-changer.”
Stones went on to feature heavily in the Tykes 2012-2013 campaign before making the move to Merseyside the next season for a reported fee of £3 million.
He recently penned a five-year contract extension at the club and put in an accomplished performance in the Blues 2-1 defeat to Manchester United on the weekend.