Manchester City's John Stones: Raheem Sterling will overcome 'ridiculous' criticism
MANCHESTER -- John Stones has backed teammate Raheem Sterling to brush off criticism and continue to perform for England.
The Manchester City pair join up with the national team this week for the first time since helping them to the World Cup semifinals and a best finish for 28 years in the summer.
Sterling, who scored in City's 2-1 win over Newcastle United on Saturday, was the focus of attention before Russia 2018 even started after a controversial gun tattoo, while criticism continued at the tournament when he failed to score despite having come off a campaign of 23 goals for City.
"Raz was unbelievable in the World Cup. I know he got a lot of negativity towards him, but what he brought to the team -- he terrorised defences, and it got overshadowed," Stones told reporters. "On a personal level, I was upset for Raheem because what he brings to his team, as we saw with his goal against Newcastle, is immense.
"And it's not just about goals, he creates chances, takes on his full-back -- he does everything right and more and I hope if we do play for England that one goes in and that is that, and we can put it to bed. If that happens, he can go on to show the world how good he is.
"He has such a great mentality, to keep coming out every week and doing what he does, and brush it all aside.
"There was a lot of stuff going on before the World Cup, non-football related which is ridiculous. But you can't let it get to you and Raz is so focused on his football and wanting to do well for the team -- and that is the side people don't see. Its an unbelievable quality for any footballer to have, and it makes him a great lad to play with."
England's World Cup campaign was a triumph after miserable performances at recent tournaments and Stones wants to build on that feelgood factor into the Nations League clash with Spain on Saturday and next Tuesday's friendly with Switzerland.
"It doesn't seem that long ago that we were in Russia, and we have a lot of good memories," the defender added. "We want to carry on the momentum from the World Cup, that good feeling.
"We were disappointed to get knocked out but I think we changed the feeling, changed people's mindset and opinions about England. I wanted to do that, to make people proud of England again, and we want to do that again, against a good Spain team, which will be another good test."
Kyle Walker will also join the England squad fresh from heroics in the Newcastle United victory when he scored the winner with a fierce 25-yard strike. It was the defender's first goal in nearly three years and Stones joked that his teammate had to break his run eventually.
"The other day he had a shot against Wolves which nearly hit the corner flag, so it's just a persistence thing," he said. "It's about good ball connection and getting it on target. They can get a deflection or anything from that distance, but that one sailed into the corner.
"I'll give him a bit of stick about that celebration. I'll give him stick, but really I'm over the moon for him."