BARNSLEY man John Stones has been backed to recover from the heartbreak of losing the Euro 2020 final on penalties with England.

The 27-year-old defender from Thurlstone played every game, including the final on Sunday at Wembley in which the Three Lions lost to Italy in a shoot-out. Ronnie Branson, who was the academy manager during most of Stones’ decade in the Barnsley youth system, said: “I spoke to him a few times over the tournament and since it finished.

“Obviously he’s very disappointed but they gave a good acount of themselves.

“When you lose a final like that, especially in that manner, you will be deflated and low.

“But, given time to reflect, they will know they have done very, very well and be proud of what they achieved.”

Stones joined Barnsley at the age of eight from Penistone Church then made his first team debut in 2012, making 28 appearances before moving to Everton in 2013. He was later signed by Manchester City for £47million for whom he has won three Premier League titles, the FA Cup and two League Cups while he also featured in this year’s Champions League final loss. Branson said: “I always say it’s not down to any one person to develop a player.

“There are a lot of people involved – physios, sports scientists, the education and welfare people – but I think the environment he developed and grew up in at Barnsley was a good one.

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“He learned a lot about football and life and he’s gone on to be a very good footballer but also a really good human being. He’s a top lad.”

Stones – who now has 49 international caps – drifted out of the City and England teams in the previous two seasons before starring in the 2020/21 campaign.

Branson said: “If the Euros were held last summer as scheduled, he probably wouldn’t have gone because he wasn’t getting in the England or Man City team.

“But John has a steeliness, determination and strength about him that I don’t think some people see.

“He’s not all blood and guts with blood dribbling down his face and a bandage on his forehead like Terry Butcher, so some people think he is too nice.

“But he has a lot of inner strength.

“You have good and bad times in football and he’s shown he can come through bad times. I never doubted that he would bounce back. He’s at a club with players like (Ruben) Dias and (Aymeric) Laporte in his position so it was never going to be easy to keep his place.”

On Stones as a character, Branson said: “John is a bit quieter than some, he doesn’t clamour to be interviewed and you don’t see him on social media.

“But he has a wicked sense of humour and he’s very articulate. He was always a funny, outgoing character.”

Stones’ centre-back partner for England at the Euros was Harry Maguire who also had a spell in the Oakwell academy – although a much shorter one.

Branson said: “Harry came to us when he was nine years old for a couple of years. Then he went to Sheffield United.

“He and his brother Joe used to come together and Harry always played with the older lads.

“It’s difficult for us to claim any credit for Harry but he was at Barnsley for a couple of years.”