Ronnie Branson has spoken of his admiration for John Stones after the former Barnsley youngster was named on the standby list for England’s World Cup 2014 squad in Brazil.
Defender Stones, who played 28 times for the Reds before joining Everton in January 2013, will replace Phil Jones if the Manchester United player fails to recover from a shoulder injury.
The 19-year-old, who hails from Penistone, has made 26 appearances for Everton this season, helping the Premier League outfit record 10 clean sheets and finish in fifth position.
Branson, the Reds academy manager, has told The Star: “Everybody at the club and the academy are chuffed to bits for John. He started here at a young age, came through our first-team and gone on to play regularly for Everton. I know his mum and dad really well. It’s been great to watch John develop into a Premier League player and now he is close to getting into the full international set-up. I am extremely pleased for him.
“He was a great kid around the place and very keen to learn. He was a smashing lad and very polite and courteous to all staff.
“If I’m being honest, when he was in our academy in the Under-14 age group, he was not the best player in that group. He was very good but a slow burner. But he got better each year and carried that through to first-team. He took it all in his stride.
“John is a credit to himself, his family and all the staff at our football club.”
Branson hopes Stones’ meteoric rise to prominence will inspire the next generation at Oakwell.
“It’s great John has come through our system,” he said. “It helps us recruit players and shows what can be achieved with our guidance.”