International Soccer

Gareth Southgate defends playing John Stones despite injury

Gareth Southgate has defended his decision to start John Stones in England’s draw with Belgium after the Manchester City star hobbled of with an injury.

Stones was forced off after just ten minutes of the friendly at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday evening due to an adductor issue, being replaced by Liverpool’s Joe Gomez in the heart of England’s defence.

Having played 90 minutes of the friendly defeat to Brazil and considering Stones’ injury issues throughout the 2023/24 season so far – he’s missed 12 games due ailments, it came as a surprise to many that the defender was risked from the start of Tuesday’s friendly too.

John Stones

Stones went off injured / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Speaking to the press after the game, manager Southgate was keen to defend the decision to play Stones, insisting that there was no risk in starting the defender.

“No [it wasn’t a risk to play him]. The first game [against Brazil] for him wasn’t a game that was a high level in terms of intensity,” the England boss explained.

“We’ve done exactly what Holland did with Virgil van Dijk tonight, what Norway did with Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard, starting both games. Holland also started Nathan Ake again. It only ever seems to fall on us when there’s a question about that.

“But of course, we’re disappointed if he’s got a problem. It’s in the adductor area. He came in on the back of not having played for two weeks so it wasn’t an overload issue. But I hate sending players back to their clubs if they’re not fully fit.”

Along with Stones, Manchester City may also be without fellow defender Kyle Walker for the top of the Premier League clash with Arsenal this weekend due to an injury picked up on international duty. The veteran had been forced off during England’s defeat to Brazil over the weekend.

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