John Stones’ time away from Man City line-up reminded defender how ‘special’ it is to play


John Stones has said he is determined to make the most of his recent return to the Manchester City starting line-up.

The centre-back has, somewhat unexpectedly, been keeping Aymeric Laporte out of the City side after seizing an early-season opportunity.

Stones’ future at the club seemed to be up in the air in the summer, with the signings of Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake appearing to relegate him to fourth choice in central defence.

The 26-year-old has started five of City’s last six Premier League games and each of them have ended with clean sheets, hauling the team towards the title race after a sluggish start to the season.

READ MORE: Premier League table and fixtures – all games by date and kick-off time

Stones said: “I feel great. I am just trying to help the team as much as I can and grab my opportunity when I am on the pitch and contribute as much as I can to the team.

“I am thoroughly enjoying every moment when I am out there with the team in every competition. I feel fit and ready to fight for everything we play in.”

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Stones spent most of last season on the periphery of the City side and the general feeling was that he had not lived up to expectations following his £47.5million move from Everton in 2016.

But after rumours that he could leave the club, his recent renaissance has led to talk of a new contract and a recall to the England side for the first time in over a year.

He puts his revival down to a renewed determination fuelled by a desire to regain his place.

“It makes you realise how hard you have worked and that the hard work is paying off,” he said of his return to the side. “It makes you realise how special it is to be out there and also to realise that when other players aren’t playing, how they feel and what you should do for them when you are on the pitch.

“There are a lot of aspects you can look at but it is something you cannot take granted. There are always twists and turns and you have got to grab it with both hands and enjoy it and that is what I am doing. I am really enjoying my football.

“I think I have learnt who I am as a player. I have learnt a lot of things football-wise as a person as well.

“It always makes it easier when you are winning and keeping clean sheets but I am just trying to move in the right direction and to keep trying to become better as a player and as a team.”

City, who beat Newcastle on Boxing Day, are back in action as they travel to Stones’ former club Everton on Monday.

The Yorkshireman has fond memories of his time at Goodison Park, where he made his name after moving from Barnsley in 2013.

He said: “I loved my time there. The time I spent there was a vital time in my career. It was a great environment to be in and I have a lot of great memories.

“Now they are a great team and the new manager coming in has put his stamp on the team. They are making great progress and I am sure it will be a great match when we come up against them.”

PA

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