Everton's Barkley and Stones emerge from England Euro failure unscathed
Three days on from a shock 2-1 defeat to Iceland in the European Championships, the inquests into England's latest tournament failure are in full flow, with manager Roy Hodgson resigning immediately after the final whistle.
Two players exempt from such indignity are Everton pair Ross Barkley and John Stones, the only two outfield players in Hodgson's squad without a single minute of football in four matches at Euro 2016. Any initial disappointment at not featuring has now most likely transformed into feelings of luck and escape.
For Barkley and Stones, sat on the substitutes' bench as their international teammates limped out of the Euros, there would have been a familiarity to the events unfolding before them. This was England doing their best Everton impression.
England's 2-1 loss to Iceland could have been almost any Everton match from the past two Premier League seasons. Too much was asked of the full-backs. One player was relied on too heavily in central midfield. There was not enough creativity in forward areas, nor was there a defence able to withstand the slightest hint of pressure.
Barkley and Stones face the misfortune of having club and country teams less than the sum of their parts.
However, while both can escape the post-mortems awaiting the remainder of the England squad, their complete lack of action in the tournament ranks as another contentious and inexplicable decision made by Hodgson this summer.
Though neither ended the season well in a struggling Everton side, both had shown enough at domestic and international levels over the course of the season to warrant a European experience beyond four matches spent warming the bench.
Despite being the most impressive of Hodgson's central defensive options in the warm-up matches, Stones had to settle for watching on while Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill toiled. England bossed possession in all four matches, recording 60 percent or higher in the final three games, but neither Smalling nor Cahill coped well with the added time on the ball this entailed. As the team cried out for ball-playing ability at centre-back -- particularly as the midfield floundered ahead of them -- Stones remained stationed on the sideline.
Not even the added experience and defensive knowhow supposedly offered by the preferred duo could justify Stones' inaction. Smalling and Cahill were at the heart of a brittle defence that regularly found trouble against minimal offensive power. Only against a Slovakia side happy to settle for a 0-0 draw did the pair escape unscathed.
For Barkley the writing was already on the wall on the eve of the tournament. Dubbed England's bright new hope after impressive early-season form for club and country, this feted position soon faded. Barkley was also one of two midfielders without a start in the warm-up matches.
Again, even when the matches called out for a player with his dribbling capabilities and ability to conjure up moment of inspirations from nothing, Barkley remained on the bench. Against teams sitting deep, content to let England have possession and then pounce on the counter, Barkley could have thrived.
No such call arrived. Instead, Hodgson regularly turned to Jack Wilshere whenever England needed rescuing, despite the Arsenal midfielder looking every inch a player with only 141 minutes of football last season, while others chosen ahead of Barkley did little with their opportunities.
As England completed their dismal exit, these highly-rated Everton prospects could only ponder why they travelled to France this summer at all. Even though matches unfolded and suited the exact attributes the pair offer, Hodgson merely continued to ignore situations tailor-made for both.
In the end, each passing match and continued ignorance seemed to confirm the view that Hodgson has never quite trusted the risk that accompanies the unpredictable but potential game-changing ability offered by Stones and Barkley.
This apparent lack of faith is unlikely to persist though, at least not at club level, with new Everton manager Ronald Koeman already disclosing his admiration for Barkley, while the former Barcelona player would appear to have the necessary qualities and experience to polish the rough edges in Stones' defensive game.
Moving on from a wasted summer, untainted by the shambles surrounding them, this early exit does at least provide the chance to rejoin Everton (outside interest notwithstanding) at an earlier date and begin preparing for the season ahead. England's loss can be Everton's gain.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.