Stones is 'Fearless' says ex-Reds stalwart
Whilst the nation marvels at the rise of the once Red John Stones, many have thrown in their opinion on one of England’s rising stars.
But former Oakwell favourite Stephen Foster has just as valid a viewpoint on the Everton defender as anyone, having featured alongside the now fully-fledged England international on his full début – a goal-scoring one at that - against Rochdale in August 2012.
Stones once said Foster was his role model, stating his desire to become ‘as good as him’. “I always said he was a nice kid,” laughed Foster. “He’s just being nice, isn’t he?
“He’s a lot better player than I was and he can have a lot better career than I did, I’m sure he will do! He’s got all the attributes.”
Foster made 244 appearances in the heart of the Reds’ defence over six years, towards the back-end of which he witnessed the start of Stones’ career.
“It was always obvious he had talent, but the most impressive bit was he had a bite about him in his determination,” added Foster.
“His talent was obvious in the games I watched him play in. The reason why he continues to do so well is that he listens. For any aspiring footballer coming through the ranks, that’s the most important thing – to listen.
Stones keeping tabs on Man United's Wayne Rooney for Everton in their 2-0 victory at Goodison Park in April 2014. (Action Images/Carl Recine).
“His character shone through because he wanted to ask questions, learn and take everything on board.
“He’s had a really good upbringing. He’s still the grounded lad he was, I still text him and he replies so it hasn’t gone to his head!
“Everyone who knows him wants him to do so well.”
Even for Foster, scorer of one of Barnsley’s greatest goals in the comeback to beat Liverpool in the 2008 FA Cup at Anfield, he found it surreal to see ‘Stonesy’ make his senior England international against Peru last Friday night.
He continued, “It was surreal, everyone associated with Barnsley will have got that sense of pride of knowing him. Him doing so well is just great to see. He’ll continue to work hard and push on. You always want nice people to do well.
“The lad’s got no fear. There’s no real fear in the way he plays. He was holding his own in the Premier League and keeping international players out of the team. Now he’s a full England international.
“Every time someone asks me about him, I always say the same thing – I’ve never known two separate managers speak about him and both describe him as a ‘Rolls Royce’. He’s got the lot. He’s athletic, he’s got the build, he’s quick and got good feet.”
John Stones, just after celebrating with Stephen Foster, having scored his first senior goal at Rochdale, August 2012. (Keith Turner).
Stones helped Everton to fifth in the Premier League, along with ten clean sheets during his first full top-flight season, and the now-retired Foster highlights the importance of cutting your teeth in first-team football, as Stones did with the Reds during the 2012/13 season.
“There’s no replacing first-team football,” he said. “If you look at Danny Drinkwater and Kieran Trippier, they’ll be in the Premier League next season. They aren’t getting in at the likes of Man United and Man City, but to come to Barnsley and get first-team football, you can’t replace that experience they got at Barnsley. It’s no disrespect to Barnsley to say that they took a step back and then went forward again into the Premier League.
“Starting at Barnsley gave Stonesy the opportunity to develop and get into the first team at a young age and gain game-time in his first season. When you’re playing first-team football you’re on show all the time. If you’re in the reserves or a ‘B’ team, the exposure isn’t there, either.”