Sez Les: You never know what you might see at a game!

John Stones in action when at Barnsley
John Stones in action when at Barnsley
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You never know what you might see. It’s a favourite little saying of mine and applies to any football match, whatever the game, whatever the level.

It could be a wonder goal, a strange incident, perhaps something you’ve never seen on a football pitch before. Even a young player who becomes a future star.

A few years ago, my afternoon mission was covering Sheffield Wednesday’s reserve team game against Barnsley at Oakwell. The first reserve game of the season for both clubs.

Barnsley included a couple of youngsters, among them a 16-year-old making his debut. Lean, rangy, he played at right back.

As you might expect, he was a bit raw, got caught out of position a couple of times but there was definitely something about him. In fact, having been ‘done’ once, he managed to get back, stick out a long leg and deflect a centre for a corner. He also did something similar again.

It didn’t seem much, but it prompted an idle thought. If he could recover like that having been hopelessly caught out, what might he be like a few years down the line? Raw, yes, but there was definitely something. I made a note of the name.

John Stones.

A couple of months later, I saw Barnsley reserves at Bramall Lane. That same 16-year-old Stones played in midfield that night and, although a defender, did enough to not look out of place.

I noted his debut for Barnsley near enough a couple of years later and wasn’t surprised he became a regular although it was no surprise that his talent had been ‘spotted’.

By coincidence, I happened to see what was to be his final game for Barnsley. A windy, Tuesday night in January last year against Millwall and I saw him do something I’ve never seen a full back do before.

It’s on YouTube if you want to take a look. This high ball is dropping almost on to the touchline and would have taken some sorting at the best of times. This was in a swirling wind as well but young Stones, who is actually running towards the touchline, performs an instep half-volley back through his own legs as the ball drops in front of him. It was outrageous.

I have noted his Everton career with interest. His elevation this week into Roy Hodgson’s World Cup standby squad means he could yet go to Brazil. But, he will play for England one day.