Is this to blame for £40m Everton man’s 2015/16 drop off?

Although England once provided the good ol’ beautiful game with one of its most influential powerhouses all the way back when footballers still proudly wore their shirts firmly tucked-in, and there wasn’t a gimmicky multi-coloured boot insight, the Three Lions have since failed so dramatically upon the global scene in recent times.

As the trophy-less years continue to drag on and this once proud sporting nation seemingly turns to each new generation in the hope that fortunes may finally begin to change.

Several up and coming youngsters are subsequently met with vast amounts of unfounded praise in a desperate attempt to restore some much-needed pride from somewhere, with many equally ill-conceived transfer valuations hanging precariously above their heads across every passing window.

So then, as Everton’s John Stones has ultimately failed to impress for large parts of the current campaign, despite still being considered a £40m player within some sections of the English footballing community, was the 21-year-old England international simply met with too much hype last season, or is the towering centre-back still on course to achieving great things within the Premier League?

Well, although Stones certainly began his career in rather assured circumstances, the 2015/16 campaign has clearly proven one to forget for the former Barnsley defender. No top team in their right mind would ever consider signing the youngster purely on the back of his recent performances this season, despite the initial sense of careless sensation that once came his way in abundance.

Fans need only look to Everton’s disappointing midweek Merseyside Derby for the growing shortcomings within Stones’ overall game, for although the current favourite in Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions squad wasn’t entirely to blame for his side’s undoubtedly frustrating performance, the once untouchable centre-back looked largely out of his depth and ill-equipped for the job ahead of him.

Although Stones was once considered a somewhat unique English talent for his ability to play the ball out calmly from the back and command the space ahead of him in truly confident style, this particular area of his overall game has been called into question of late. He’s now often giving away possession and struggling to make the snap decisions he did when breaking through in the blue shirt, taking away the part of his game that differentiated him.

The 21-year-old has subsequently been labelled something close to a luxury centre-back who can’t actually defend by certain Everton fans this season, which – whilst arriving in admittedly crude form – potentially has a subtle element of truth behind it on the back of his less than impressive performances.

But does any of this really mean that Stones has suddenly turned into a bad player overnight and should never be offered a chance to re-stake his claim back in the England squad once again? Certainly not. There isn’t exactly a wealth of English defensive talent to call upon in his place after all, but the overriding sense of hype and excitement to be willingly pointed in his direction last season nonetheless remains somewhat wide of the mark.

Stones does still theoretically represent the best ball-playing centre-back currently on offer to Hodgson. He remains a solid centre-back option for the Three Lions regardless of everything that has happened down at Goodison Park this season, and will likely serve to impress – in albeit muted circumstances – once EURO 2016 finally comes around this summer.

The current Toffees defender therefore shouldn’t be prematurely written off at this early stage in his career by any relevant stretch of the imagination – even if he ultimately comes nowhere near close to representing a £40m asset when all is said and done.

So then, although most England fans certainly know how to get carried away with certain players before they have really proved themselves among the Premier League, now is no time to forget about the undoubted potential that still resides somewhere within the figure of Everton’s John Stones this season…