- Defenders compete against one another at club level
- Paired together on an international stage
- Preparing for another shot at global glory in Qatar
WHAT HAPPENED? Any domestic disputes are being put to one side as attention shifts to the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar, with Gareth Southgate having pieced together a 26-man group that he is preparing to send into battle. Stones and Maguire form part of those plans, having previously helped the Three Lions to the last four of the 2018 World Cup and final of Euro 2020, with two experienced performers prepared to look out for one another after attracting plenty of criticism as individuals.
WHAT THEY SAID: City centre-half Stones has said of working with Maguire again – with the United captain having struggled for form and fitness in the current campaign: “When I look at Harry, I see a partner. Through all our experiences he’s had my back and I’ve had his. We’ve had so many games together, we’ve made a bond and a partnership together. We know what the other person is going to do and how we work best together. It clicks. Whatever team or whatever system Gareth decides, if it’s me and Harry we will use those bonds again. They are too strong to be broken by game time, form, whatever it is. That kind of goes out the window when these moments hit.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Questions have been asked of whether Maguire should be a regular for England in Qatar, but Stones feels any suggestion that the Three Lions are weak at the back falls well wide of the mark. He added: “I am a bit insulted, to be fair. Maybe in the respect that some of the players aren't playing so regularly or have had injuries perhaps. Sometimes we forget about what players have done in the past — and what they have done in big-game scenarios — and we focus on the negative. You don't lose quality or class and big-game players turn up, which as an England squad we have done over the past five years especially in the last World Cup and Euros.”
IN THREE PHOTOS:
WHAT NEXT? England, who are due to open their World Cup campaign against Iran on November 21, also have Ben White, Eric Dier and Conor Coady at their disposal when it comes to centre-half options in another shot at savouring global glory and bringing 56 years of international heartache to a close.