JOHN STONES ADMITS he is enduring a “difficult” time at Manchester City after slipping out of favour under Pep Guardiola.
The 23-year-old was a regular for the Premier League leaders over the first half of the season, with his form helping to silence those who have questioned him since a £47.5 million move to the Etihad Stadium.
He was, however, to suffer an untimely injury in November and has struggled to nail down a regular role since – with Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi impressing, while Aymeric Laporte was acquired during the January transfer window.
Stones has not started an English top-flight fixture since January 20, while his last two selections from the off in all competitions have come in rare defeats for City – against Wigan and Basel.
He told reporters on his current situation: “It’s difficult.
“Every player wants to play week-in, week-out. But I’ve had games here and there, I’ve been fighting and that’s all you can do. Train hard, keep working hard and when your chance comes you’ve got to take it and that’s what I’ve done. Stayed positive.
I’ve had the players’ backing and the manager’s [Guardiola’s] backing. It’s one of those things where the team’s winning games and playing well, and you can’t get back in just like that.
“I’ve got to keep working hard and that’s what I’ve been doing. Still learning while I’m on the sidelines, that’s a massive thing. You can’t switch off and when your chance comes you’re ready to take it.”
Pressed on whether this is the toughest period of his career to date, Stones added: “It’s tough, but I’ve got my first medal [in a Carabao Cup win over Arsenal] so I can’t complain.”
There is the promise of more medals to come as City close on the Premier League title and ready themselves for a Champions League quarter-final clash with Liverpool.
Stones also has a World Cup spot to aim at, with England boss Gareth Southgate having kept faith in him despite his recent lack of game time at club level.
He added ahead of a friendly outing against Italy, having helped to keep a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over the Netherlands: “I’ve got to do my job at City and, as I said, I’ve got to take my chance when it comes and Gareth is watching so much football.
“He’s picked me this time and I’ve just got to take my chance when I get out on the pitch. Hopefully again on Tuesday we can go again.”
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