John Stones aims to feed winning addiction with vibrant England | Football

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John Stones says winning trophies is “addictive” but the England defender, who has helped Manchester City claim successive Premier League titles, admitted he is desperate to taste success with his country, starting with the Nations League in Portugal this coming week.

If Gareth Southgate’s side beat the Netherlands in Guimarães on Thursday, they will proceed to the final of the two-game tournament in Porto next Sunday. Stones – who was part of a City side that celebrated winning a treble this season, lifting the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and Premier League, as well as the Community Shield – has urged England to build on the achievement of reaching last summer’s World Cup semi-finals and hopes to end the week savouring silverware with his teammates at international level.

“I want to give them that hunger of something so special, so addictive, that when you lift a trophy and know that you’ve been the best in whatever competition, it is something so special,” says Stones, who turned 25 this week. “It’s so addictive; I can’t describe it in any other way. When I think back now to lifting that [FA Cup] trophy at Wembley, up on the balcony, it’s something that will never leave your mind and for me it’s so unique when you can’t have anyone say they were better than you.

“And last season as City boys we were so confident, as we’d finished the league with a month to go. And going to a World Cup, knowing that we were the best in the Premier League, is something so special. Pep [Guardiola] used to say it. That’s a benchmark and a confidence thing no other player can take into the competition.”

Stones, who started all seven games in Russia last summer, hopes England can capitalise on galvanising a nation. “We were probably so low in people’s thought process, maybe – I hope I’m wrong – but I hope we have probably gone to another level now where everyone is so excited.

“We need to deliver again now and that’s the expectation that we have put on ourselves. It’s not the biggest tournament but I think if there’s a trophy there to be won there’s no way you can say it’s nowhere near as important as any other. It’s there in its own right and that makes it so important. The Nations League is so important, for a country that for 45 years or so has not done anything.”

“[City teammate] David Silva is always making fun of me and he’ll send me a picture of the three things he’s won [with Spain], the World Cup and two European [championships]. He says: ‘This might be you one day.’ But that’s something that he is so proud of and I don’t want to say that I can’t imagine it – I couldn’t imagine it years ago happening – but now we are so close to something special. I cannot imagine what the scenes would be like if we do it. It would be something special for all of us.”

The centre-back is likely to return to partner Harry Maguire in defence after missing the March victories over Czech Republic and Montenegro with a groin injury but has acknowledged the continual fight to retain his place for club and country.

At City, Guardiola opted to interchange between playing Stones, Vincent Kompany or Nicolás Otamendi alongside Aymeric Laporte, with the former Everton defender reduced to a substitute role towards the end of a title-winning season. Stones, who has also been utilised in defensive midfield, most recently against Watford in the FA Cup final, insists it is a position he is happy to continue playing in. “We had Fernandinho out and Gundo [Ilkay Gündogan] came off in that game,” he says. “I’m happy that the manager trusts me in that position. It’s another string to my bow. I feel comfortable in there.

“I remember away [at Hoffenheim] in the Champions League, I came on and in possession I played in midfield, and out of possession I was a centre-half. After we’d won – David [Silva] had scored late on – Pep praised me for my impact when I came on.”

Stones reveals he voted for Tottenham’s Son Heung-min as his PFA player of the season but says he is a big fan of Virgil van Dijk, as well as Matthijs de Ligt, the Ajax centre-back who partners the Liverpool man in the Netherlands team. “They are two great players but I have every confidence in our strikers that they can cause them problems. I always say it about myself that for whoever plays up top, they will get the best out of themselves because they are playing against top players.”

After the Nations League Southgate is set to fly to Italy to take in the European Under-21 Championship. Aidy Boothroyd’s side spent the past week at St George’s Park training alongside a depleted senior squad, owing to several Champions League final absentees.

A sub-strength England senior team beat the under-21s 5-0 in a 60-minute match at the national base in Burton on Tuesday. Southampton’s Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse, who remained in training despite not making Southgate’s final 23-man squad, both scored, as did Marcus Rashford, while Jesse Lingard twice found the net.

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