Stones To Brazil Could Make Sense


Tottenham Hotspur’s Kyle Walker is a major doubt for the World Cup in June as he continues to nurse a pelvic injury. Should the right-back fail to recover in time or suffers a setback then that could mean a spot opens up for someone else.

A lot depends on how many defenders England coach Roy Hodgson decides to take to Brazil.

It could well be that he takes seven, instead of eight. As that would allow him to take an extra forward.

If it is seven, then that would probably mean two left-backs, three centre-backs and two right sided defenders.

For the left side it looks like Ashely Cole will join Leighton Baines on the plane. I would imagine Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Phil Jones will be the centre-backs.

Glen Johnson should be the number one right-back but who could step in as his understudy?

For me, it will be between Chris Smalling, Jon Flanagan and John Stones.

I think out of the three Stones might actually be the best bet.

Twenty-one year old Liverpool man Jon Flanagan has had a terrific end to the season and he also offers versatility by playing on the left too. But unfortunately for him England are set on the left with the two that they have. If they only take seven defenders, England should probably look at taking a right-back who can also fit in easily in the centre. So Jon may miss out because of the need for more options in the middle.

Chris Smalling is the more experienced of the trio. The Manchester United man is also able to play at centre-back as well as right-back. ┬áThe problem for Smalling is that he’s had a poor season for his club. This was a season that should have seen Smalling step up and assert himself as a Man United regular. I don’t think he has done that and that may worry Roy. Too many times I’ve seen Smalling switch off and get caught out. To be honest his form means he just doesn’t merit a place on the plane, in my opinion. Also add the fact that he has been in a few front page headlines, that could also count against him.

When Phil Jagielka came off injured against Aston Villa at the start of February, Everton fans may have been forgiven if they thought they could have been in for a dodgy spell at the back. But nineteen year John Stones has came in and has done admirably well. The youngster is normally seen as a right-back but his defensive awareness and pace made it easier for him to adapt to the role in the centre. The trust shown in Stones by his club manager Roberto Martinez has seen the English player evolve and grow from strength to strength.

The impressive performances from the former Barnsley player has won admiring glances from Chelsea. If he continues with his upward development then you can see Stones becoming England’s version of Raphael Varane. I honestly believe he could be that good.

As well as his pace and awareness, the Toffees defender also does really well when he is on the ball. His keen eye for developing from the back rather than hoof it forward should be encouraged at international level.

He would certainly be in my squad if I was the England boss. I also believe if Kyle Walker doesn’t regain full fitness then it should be between the two Merseyside players to replace him and not the out of form Chris Smalling. Stones and Flanagan have had superb run-ins and both would be brimming with confidence come June time.

Hodgson has proved in the past that he isn’t scared to hand a youngster or two a spot on the plane to a major tournament. Even if Walker is fit, I would still take both Flanagan and Stones as back-ups and get them exposed to life as a senior international footballer.

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