Manchester City defender John Stones is on the verge of an England recall and nobody will be more delighted to see his return to the international stage than Roy Hodgson, the manager who gave him his first senior cap.
City boss Pep Guardiola has restored Stones to the form that earned him the first of his 39 caps and although he has not played under Gareth Southgate since November 2019, he tipped to fight for his 40th in the next round of internationals in March.
The 26-year-old lines up against Hodgson’s Palace on Sunday at the heart of City’s defence alongside Ruben Dias.
John Stones has performed impressively for Manchester City of late and is in contention to return to the England squad for the March internationals
Roy Hodgson handed Stones his first England cap and his Crystal Palace side face City on Sunday night
The defensive duo have eight clean sheets, eight wins, one draw and one goal conceded in nine starts together – and was watched by Southgate in midweek.
Hodgson handed Stones his debut in 2014, two years before he had left Everton for City, and said: ‘I’m very pleased for him. I always believed in him.
‘He reads the game well, he’s a good athlete, good in the air. He always had composure and ability on the ball, which wasn’t always so prevalent as it is today. We expect it much more today than we did then.
‘I always thought he would have a good career, John. In the last year or two, he has suffered in particular from injuries. That has obviously held him back.
‘Before that, because of his quality on the ball and because he’s courageous and because he dared to play out from the back, and sometimes a pass would be intercepted which would lead to a goal, and that got him vilified on one or two occasions.
Stones has played his way back to form as Pep Guardiola’s City side rise up the league table
Stones in action against Brighton’s Neal Maupay during City’s 1-0 victory in midweek
‘Pep’s obviously stayed with him very much in that respect. He wants the quality that John’s got on the ball. He wants that confidence.
‘He wants him able to step into midfield with the ball and find passes. And I’m sure he forgives him if one or two go astray.’
Hodgson will be looking for nothing but discipline from his defenders on Sunday, however, as he looks to build on Thursday’s impressive tie at Arsenal by emulating their last two Premier League visits to the Etihad, which have ended in a win and a draw.
He added: ‘When you play as well we did against Arsenal it takes such an awful lot of effort on behalf of players. That’s not rocket science as such. The difficulty is dealing with the quality of the players, the quality of their technique.
‘Even if you get your tactical work right, and your positions on the field right more often than not, and people work hard to keep their positions and take up the right positions, unfortunately a Kevin De Bruyne can undo you. That is a big danger.’