Why Hodgson must pick John Stones over United's Smalling & Jones

Roy Hodgson on air

As Manchester United duo Chris Smalling and Phil Jones struggle for form, there is a growing case for Everton's John Stones seizing their England spot.

There seems to have been a raft of young English central defenders emerge in recent years, that have possessed the necessary pace, drive and attacking instincts to play right fullback.

Two of these are at Manchester United, a club in disarray after their handpicked "chosen" manager  didn't even last his first Premier League season. Both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have had strange careers over the last couple of seasons.

Jones, touted as having the potential to be one of United's best ever players by Sir Alex Ferguson, hasn't really progressed a great deal in his three years at the club, and has had most of his better games in positions most admit aren't actually his best. With just a handful of appearances in his favoured central defence position, it isn't far fetched to say he performed better in that role in his breakthrough season at Blackburn Rovers than he has at United. Against Everton on Sunday he was given the chance to make some headway at centre back, kind of important given that United's two mainstays are going to be on their way come the summer, yet utterly disappointed, at fault for both Everton goals and looking a long long way off someone that should be held up as the Reds' and England's great defensive hope. At 22, Jones still has time on his side, but 4 seasons of Premier League football and such unflattering progress doesn't bode well.

Likewise, Smalling has failed to capitalise on his early promise. A late bloomer, this is nevertheless his fourth year at Old Trafford, and as with his fellow young English defender, no one knows if he is actually good enough to play centrally for a strong Premier League team. Due to turn 25 this year, the former Fulham man has to convince in the very near future in order to avoid the chop with whoever comes in at United. 

In contrast to these two struggling English defenders is Everton's John Stones. Still just 19, it is ironic that he could be Moyes' last signing for the Toffees, yet be at the heart of the defeat that sealed his fate at United. Stones moved from right back to centre back to deputise for injured captain Phil Jagielka, and was brought into the team at the start of, and throughout a spell that has seen Roberto Martinez's men win 8 out of 9 games. He has been superb in big matches such as the United and Arsenal wins, and has shown that he can slot straight into a back four already holding one of England's defensive certainties in Leighton Baines. He has featured in almost as many Premier league games as Jones and Smalling this year, and to put it simply, is one of the form defenders in the country.

The key question is are either Jones or Smalling in the top 8 English central defenders right now? The answer is probably not. Are they in the top 5 English right backs? Certainly not. So why would Hodgson take 'promising' players who have had 3-4 years stagnating ahead of promising players who are at this very minute performing week in week out for top class Premier League clubs.

If versatility is the answer then in John Stones you have a player better in both positions, and at the top of his young, improving game. 

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