Hemsworth lad John Stones has come in for high praise from Everton manager Roberto Martinez after breaking into the Premiership club’s first team.
Former Barnsley defender Stones, 19, has been tipped as a future England centre-half and was man of the match in the Toffees’ recent FA Cup third round tie against QPR.
He kept his place in the team for last Saturday’s Premiership game against Norwich and played well again as his team kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory.
Stones, an England under 21 regular, joined Everton 12 months ago in a £3 million move from Barnsley with the belief in his future backed up by him signing a huge five-and-a-half year contract.
He has had to be patient for his first team chance, but is now making the most of his opportunity.
After Stones came in initially for Everton’s game against Stoke in the Premier League Martinez said: “Young John Stones I think is going to be one of the best defenders in the English game.
“I was so impressed with him in pre-season when he played in our friendly against Juventus, and from that point on he has been working hard and I knew he was ready.
“I couldn’t be happier with his performance, right up to clearing the final corner which shows you he is a born leader.
“I think we’re going to see something special in John Stones’ career.
“He has played right-back many times for the under-21s but centre-half is his natural position.
“John Stones has got everything to be a good, modern centre-half. He is good on the ball, is good in the air, he can read the game exceptionally well, but more importantly he has a leader inside of him and I think he will be one of the best centre-halves in the English game.”
Stones made his debut for Everton against Stevenage in the Capital One Cup on August 28. His league debut was as a late substitute in a 1-0 win over Chelsea in September 2013 and he started his first Premier League game in a 1-1 draw against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on January 1.
He came through the Barnsley youth academy to sign professional forms in December, 2011 and made his Championship debut on March 17, 2012, against Reading, scoring his first goal for the Tykes in a Capital One Cup tie against Rochdale in August, 2012. In all, he made 28 appearances for Barnsley.
Stones was named in manager Peter Taylor’s 21-man England squad for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup and played in a 3-0 win in a warm-up game against Uruguay.
He made his England under-21s debut in a 6-0 win over Scotland last August.