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Spotlight on Stones after Everton defeat

Spotlight on Stones after Everton defeat

LONDON (Reuters) – It was one of those days for young England defender John Stones as his Everton side lost to Swansea City on Sunday for the first time in 22 league meetings.

What worries his many admirers is that there are too many such days for the 21-year-old because of his habit of playing his way out of trouble rather than hoofing the ball clear.

Just such a moment cost Everton heavily against Swansea when he attempted a dummy and then left his backpass short of goalkeeper Tim Howard, who conceded a penalty by bringing down striker Andre Ayew.

Gylfi Sigurdsson scored from the spot-kick and soon after Everton’s equaliser Stones deflected in Ayew’s shot for what turned out to be the winning goal for a side now 15th in the Premier League.

A day earlier the former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher had talked in his newspaper column about Stones, who was linked with Chelsea in the close-season, having the potential to play for clubs like Real Madrid or Barcelona.

He had warned, however, that the defender needed to tighten up his game and concentrate on keeping clean sheets.

On Sunday Carragher was in the Sky Sports television studio, accusing Stones of being “cocky” in attempting a feint before his pass towards the goalkeeper.

Graeme Souness, also covering the match for Sky, made unfavourable comparisons with his former Liverpool team-mate Alan Hansen, who he said made similar mistakes early in his career but “by the time he was 21 was happy to put it in row Z” when necessary.

Former Manchester United and England centre-half Rio Ferdinand was more supportive, however, tweeting: “Makes me even more grateful that I was brought up at West Ham, where the fans & staff allowed for me to make mistakes while learning the game”.

England manager Roy Hodgson, who has given Stones seven full England caps, and Everton’s Roberto Martinez have to hope there will not be too many more of them before their centre-half achieves his full potential.

(Reporting by Steve Tongue, editing by Alan Baldwin)

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