Manchester City defender Stones is set to appear at his first World Cup but has said that older hands in the group sense something very different in the England camp.
And Stones has no doubt that it’s Gareth Southgate who deserves the credit for injecting this new-found self-belief and confidence.
John Stones believes a change in mood can produce a change in fortunes for England in Russia
‘The vibe in the camp feels really good,’ said the 24-year-old. ‘Some of the lads who have been in previous ones say it is different this time.
‘This is my first World Cup and there is just excitement really, we want to go there and make people proud and do ourselves, our families and the fans proud because we are all fans too.
‘We want to be able to make this time count and put a smile on people’s faces make them proud and progress in tournament.
‘There are a lot of things to do when we get there but the aim for all the guys is to win the tournament and that’s what we have to be quietly confident about.
‘For me there is no harm saying I’m going there to try to win the world cup.
‘The past shouldn’t matter – that’s history and we can’t change that. It’s something that’s there but we have the opportunity to change it and that’s a positive thing.
‘I have sometimes been in squads and felt a bit of apprehension and nerves about how people perceive us or expectations are low.
‘I think with this squad there is a feeling of freedom to be able to play our game and that’s coming from the manager and his staff. The lads are comfortable with each other’s company and our ability.’
Manchester City defender Stones is set to appear at his first World Cup tournament
Stones has no doubt that it’s Gareth Southgate who deserves the credit for injecting belief
Phil Jones is one of the ‘old guard’, an England veteran best placed to compare squads – and he’s every bit as impressed as Stones.
‘This is my third tournament with England and every time we’ve said we had a good team,’ said the Manchester United defender. ‘But I do feel that this team is special. There is not the pressure on us that there was in previous tournaments, and maybe that will help us.
‘We have a very good squad, a very good team, one that is full of experience but one that also has youth. I certainly feel that we are heading in the right direction.’
Jones is equally keen to commend Southgate and assistant Steve Holland for their impact.
‘Everyone gets along great, there is no frostiness or bitterness about the team and everyone enjoys each other’s company,’ he added. ‘Maybe in the past, going back down the years, there were cliques in the group. But that’s not the case here.
‘It happened gradually. When Gareth and Steve took over they adopted that sort of relaxed environment. It has suited the lads down to a tee.’
Phil Jones is one of the ‘old guard’ and he’s every bit as impressed as Stones with the squad
Jamie Vardy sees no reason why his fairytale ride to Premier League glory cannot be repeated
Those thoughts are echoed by Jamie Vardy, who reckons there is a Leicester mentality in the England camp and sees no reason why his fairytale ride to Premier League glory cannot be repeated on the biggest stage of all.
Vardy was the goalscoring hero behind Leicester’s incredible 500-1 title triumph in 2015-16 and he can see shades of that Foxes’ set-up in the current Three Lions.
‘The mood is positive, it’s relaxed and everyone is enjoying themselves,’ said Vardy, who believes players enjoying themselves is the key to success.
‘When I won the league with Leicester, it made me laugh how the pundits said we would soon drop off. But we just carried on.
‘We enjoyed our football that season we won the title and I am a big believer that when you are enjoying yourselves on the pitch then you are at your best.
‘We have all said from day one that with the ability we’ve got in this squad we are capable of beating any other team at the World Cup on our day.
‘As long as we’re at it and as long as we execute the jobs we have been given by the boss, then we can win it.
‘And I think if you asked every single one of the lads, they would all say we can win it.
‘Deep down we think it can happen. We can go to Russia knowing that we can give anyone a game on our day, so we’re all confident we can do it.’
Author: Nancy Parker
Nancy Parker is a five time Emmy Award winning journalist and seven time Emmy nominee who has spent almost twenty five years covering news in South Louisiana. She has anchored every prime time newscast at WVUE FOX8 during her twenty year tenure in New Orleans.