Stones shows pure class
At just 21, centre back is set to be one of Everton's biggest stars
A Rolls Royce of a defender.
The Everton centre back John Stones received a compliment of the highest order from former Premiership stars Alan Smith and Niall Quinn, even after the 21-year-old spent just 45 minutes on the pitch.
Stones was one of the few bright sparks in a dour clash between Everton and Stoke in the Barclays Asia Trophy opener at the National Stadium yesterday.
There were no goals in the 90 minutes, and Everton progressed to Saturday's final after winning 5-4 on penalties, when Stoke's new signing Marco van Ginkel missed his kick.
They will meet Arsenal, who staged a late charge to down a Singapore Selection team 4-0 in yesterday's other game.
The New Paper spoke to former Ireland and Sunderland striker Quinn, one of the tournament's co-commentators for Sky Sports, and his assessment of Stones was glowing.
"He's a real Rolls Royce centre half. He can play on the ball, he's strong and quick. The key now is for him and (Phil) Jagielka to form a strong partnership in the Everton back four," he said.
"He's got a bright future and you can see that because he's already a leader on the pitch."
Quinn's view was shared by former Gunner Alan Smith - also on the Sky team - who singled out Stones for his reading of the game.
Stones, capped four times by England already, played only the second half, as Everton boss Roberto Martinez opted for youngster Tyias Browning to partner Jagielka in central defence at the start.
The England Under-21 star was a big reason why the Toffees nullified the threat of Stoke strikers Peter Odemwingie and the towering Peter Crouch in the second period.
When it looked like Stoke would finally break the deadlock in the 70th minute, when van Ginkel broke clear down the inside-left channel, Stones intervened with a brilliant block.
Even during the penalty shoot-out, the Barnsley youth product personified calm and style, as he sent Stoke goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard the wrong way, stroking his effort into the bottom corner.
"We all know what a special player he is. He's a top defender even at 21," said Martinez after the match.
"He formed a good relationship with Phil last season, and we're counting on them to get even better as a partnership this year.
"What everyone likes about him is what an all-rounder he is. He is a thinking defender, but also with a lot of strength and pace.
"He was very good for England during the (European) Under-21 Championship (last month). So he is going from strength to strength."
The Spaniard is pleased with how his side are shaping up for the new Premier League season, beginning on Aug 8.
Everton looked the slightly better side against Stoke, and might have won the game in regulation if not for Haugaard, who denied Toffees striker Romelo Lukaku on two one-on-one occasions.
"You can see signs that all the volume we have been putting in throughout pre-season already is showing," said Martinez.
"We are missing a little bit of sharpness, finding the final pass or in front of goal.
"But the hardest thing in football is to create chances and so what was very good was to see the clear-cut chances that we created."
GOTHIA CUP’S SELECTED RESULTS
- Group 13: ESPZEN Soccer School (1) 1 GAIS (Sweden) 9
- Group 15: ESPZEN Soccer School (2) 2 Assyriska BK (Sweden) 2
- Group 6: F-17 Academy 3 Hovas-Billdal IF (2) (Sweden) 3
- Group 19: International SA (1) 4 Karra KIF (1) (Sweden) 1
- Group 20: International SA (2) 0 IFK Goteborg (Sweden) 3
- Group 16: JSSL Arsenal Singapore (1) 5 Jonsereds IF Gul (Sweden) 0
- Group 18: JSSL Arsenal Singapore (2) 1 Boo FF (Sweden) 2
- Group 10: Turf City Football Club 1 Escola Academia Sporting (2) (Portugal) 1
- Group 28: International SA 3 USK Leune Anif (Austria) 4
- Group 32: JSSL Arsenal Singapore 3 Solangens BK (Sweden) 1
- Group 5: Shoot Football Academy 0 Assyriska BK (Sweden) 3
- Group 20: F-17 Academy 9 Froso IF (Sweden) 0
- Group 24: International SA 3 South Central FC (3) (England) 2
- Group 11: JSSL Arsenal Singapore (1) 3 Arjang IF (Sweden) 0
- Group 10: JSSL Arsenal Singapore (2) 0 IFK Saro IK (Sweden) 2
- Group 27: International SA 1 BRFC (Brazil) 0
- Group 43: JSSL Arsenal Singapore 3 Bromstens IK (Sweden) 2
G12 CATEGORY (GIRLS)
Group 3: JSSL Arsenal Singapore 0 Boo FF (Sweden) 1