Stones lifts lid on England’s meticulous penalty prep ahead of Germany clash
John Stones was 19 when he scored a Panenka-style penalty against Juventus on his Everton debut.
It’s fair to say that eight years on, the England defender is a different beast to the one who admits his spot-kick at the end of a pre-season Champions Trophy in San Francisco was an instinctive decision taken on his walk from the half-way line.
Playing under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and Gareth Southgate for the national team has taught Stones to leave nothing to chance.
Preparation is everything – unlike the England team that Southgate played in during Euro 96, beaten on penalties by Germany in the semi-finals after a shoot-out that was arranged by Terry Venables on the hoof.
Stones said: “Ever since Gareth has come in, we have tried to get to know what the boys like and what they want to do in those situations.
“Some might want to be left alone, or some might be feeling tired and want a massage.
“You want to see things, to visually prepare, so we have found out what everyone wants and needs and have everything ready if they decide to go down a certain path.
“It’s not a mad scramble. We don’t want to look like we are unprepared.
“We want to be going into games knowing that we have ticked every box, knowing that when a certain situation comes no-one is panicking saying ‘do you want to go third?’
“Everything is set out. We can go into it clear-minded and do your process and get the job done.
“That’s what you’ve got to do if you want to be successful, like in the World Cup against Columbia.”
Three years ago in Moscow, Stones was next in line when Eric Dier scored the penalty that knocked the Colombians out and gave England their first shoot-out victory since they beat Spain in 1996.
Southgate’s men were beaten by Croatia in the semi-finals.
And while Stones has forged a winning mentality by lifting a clutch of Premier League titles and domestic trophies in Manchester, it is the fear of failure that drives him on.
He still hasn’t been able to bring himself to watch last month’s Champions League Final defeat by Chelsea in Porto.
Stones said: “At the end of the game, it was probably one of the worst feelings I have had in football.
“I spent a few days afterwards having flashbacks and getting upset.
“But it’s probably a process of me learning something. That was my first final I have not won, but I think I learned a lot and hopefully next time it will turn out a different way.
“I am a big believer in learning things from disappointment, hard times or adversity.
“You can’t put a price on that experience. It motivates me to win it next time.”
It’s the Germans at Wembley again on Tuesday night – and with only three of England’s World Cup winners from 1966 still alive, Stones knows it is time for the nation to have some new heroes.
“We want to change the way the nation looks at the England team,” he said.
“I think we have taken massive strides since 2018 – now it’s about doing it again.
“There’s a trophy here to be won that’s never been won before and we should be super-excited about that and go in with that fearlessness that we have had over the last few years.
“Everyone loves putting on the England shirt and everyone wants to be here.
“We want to make history. No England team has lifted a European Championship trophy before.
“I don’t want to say we would be legends. We want to do it for ourselves, our families but for us as a nation.”