Stepping Stones To Nowhere?

“He’s young, English, full of qualities and a good guy as well.

“It’s not surprising a big club has come in for him. It is a compliment and if he carries on the way he has started and keeps working, he’ll end up at a big club, that’s for sure.”

That is what Sylvian Distin had to say to Sky Sports, about John Stones back in 2015, when Chelsea were showing interest in the centre-back.

Fast forward five years, and he was right about Stones ending up at a “big club”, but Distin’s words about his former Everton teammate are now slightly different.

Stones signed for Manchester City on the 9th August 2016, making him Pep Guardiola’s eighth signing for the club, since he took over in the same summer.

The England player has made 108 appearances for the club since then but has received mixed feedback from ex-teammates and pundits about his performances for his club and country.

Talking to ‘The Beautiful Game’ podcast recently, despite still being very complimentary of the defender, Distin wasn’t convinced Stones had lived up to his prospects.

“I’m not sure he has got the defensive grit. He is an amazing player with the ball, really confident with the ball, but that is possibly the modern-centre back.

“As a modern centre back, yes he is amazing. Did he fulfil his potential? No.”

With 39 senior England caps under his belt, as well as a Premier League title with Manchester City, fans of Stones may be questioning what else he can do to reach his full potential”.

However, Distin isn’t the only one to question the defender’s ability recently.

After England’s defeat to Holland in the Nations League semi-final last summer, Jamie Carragher slammed the centre-back for his mistakes and questioned his importance at Manchester City.

“I don’t think John Stones has kicked on after making that move from Everton.

“I still don’t feel like he has the 100 per cent backing of Pep Guardiola.

“I’ve never felt John Stones is one of the first names on the team sheet at Manchester City. It doesn’t feel like he has cemented that position.”

It seems as if defenders of the past, perhaps just don’t like the way the new centre-backs are playing as they come through the ranks.

Yes, they may be lacking that “defensive grit” that was once so important in the game, but their overall ability to play out from the back, and read the game is something that can’t be questioned.

Football has changed since the time of Distin and Carragher, and gone are the days of hoofing the ball out from the back.

Carragher however isn’t even convinced Stones even has the ability to play out from the back, in true modern City and England style.

After Stones was involved in all three of Holland's goals, the Liverpool legend went on to say: “Forget this talk that we’re playing too much put from the back. This thing with Stones, he’s made a stupid decision.”

Distin believes that is one thing Guardiola might be able to improve about the player though.

“He will make him a better player coming out from the back with the ball, but defender? I don’t see that happening.”

Despite all the criticism Stones has faced whilst playing for City, Guardiola has stood by his player.

After the blues drew with Crystal Palace in January, Stones was blamed on Match of The Day for both of the goals they conceded.

Guardiola labelled the criticism of his defender “unfair”, and then added: “We are there, I am there. There are ups and downs in your career so you have to be strong.

“We know his quality.”

These comments aren’t reflected in the manager's team sheets though, with the 25-year-old only making 12 league appearances so far this season.

Stones was out for a month at the end of 2019 but returned for Manchester

City’s FA Cup game against Port Vale in January.

After this, the defender only started four times in all competitions for the current Premier League Champions, prior to all Premier League games being postponed due to the Coronavirus on the 13th March.

Even though the manager is standing by his player in Press Conferences, we all know that means nothing if he isn’t getting the game time.

Actions speak louder than words, and the team sheets make Distin and Carragher’s comments valid.

If Stones hasn’t been able to “fulfil his potential” yet, after playing under, arguably, one of the best managers in the world for nearly four seasons, surely, he never will.

This article was written exclusively for