John Stones is proud of the way England’s defending partner Harry Maguire suppressed the noise about his poor form to shine at the World Cup.
Maguire had a rough start to the Premier League season and the Manchester United captain found himself on the sidelines at Old Trafford in the weeks leading up to the final.
Even his place in Gareth Southgate’s 26-man roster has been questioned in some quarters, but England boss insists Maguire remains one of his top players.
The Stones have always been behind Maguire – the duo played against each other for the first time at the age of nine – and has previously talked about how they’ve been texting and texting over friendships that have crossed the Manchester cliff.
Maguire was in great form in England’s first three games and the Stones appreciated the 29-year-old’s performance.
“I think the best reaction from the first game was what he did,” said the Manchester City centre-back.
“All three games he played were great and it’s about finding that partnership again, no matter who we play with, and I think we did it in those three games.
“Now is the time to keep building, to keep improving, and it’s a great reputation for him. I’ve spoken at length about Harry before and there were a lot of questions that were asked of me.
“Playing many games with someone in England, living many moments with him, knowing what he’s been through at his club and knowing who he is, I think the way he’s gotten through it says a lot about him. Believe in yourself as I believe him, as the whole team believes in him, the team at United His friends also believe in him.
“I think there is a lot of outside noise that he doesn’t listen to and tries to improve himself, the better.
“He came into this tournament and he ran and hit the ground, and that’s a great reputation for him.”
The Stones and their English teammates are gearing up to face Senegal in the last 16 of the World Cup on Sunday night.
“I’m extremely proud of how we dealt with the group that came out (under construction) from those matches right now – accepting, losing form as a team, losing form as a unit, as a defence,” he said.
“How we got through these three games in a tough group where we knew what we were up against. We kept two clean sheets and I am extremely proud of everyone involved.
“We’ve been doing really well since we got here, we’ve worked hard on the fundamentals and the fundamentals, and we’ve worked hard as a quad and defensive unit.
“We still want to improve every game, but I didn’t listen to the noise outside and focused on what I could do.”
England were criticized after their goalless draw with the USA, but advanced as the Group B winners after convincing wins against Iran and Wales.
With Belgium in second place in the world and Germany down in the group stage, the Stones don’t want to see England’s current crop fall short as they hold the hopes of a nation.
“I always think it’s hard when you see big teams or big players on teams that don’t have the success you want or don’t live up to a nation’s expectations or where they see themselves,” he added.
“We never want to fall into that category. I think that’s a great motivation for us as a reminder – you never want to underestimate anything or who you’re playing against.”