John Stones 'hurt' after letting Man City teammates down in first season

NASHVILLE -- Manchester City defender John Stones has spoken to ESPN FC of the "hurt" he felt in his debut season at the club for letting himself and his teammates down following his £47.5 million transfer from Everton.

The 23-year-old, who is now only the third-most expensive defender at City following the summer arrivals of Benjamin Mendy (£52m) and Kyle Walker (£50m), endured a difficult year at the Etihad Stadium, with manager Pep Guardiola dropping him from the team on more than one occasion.

While Stones ended the campaign having overcome his earlier difficulties, he goes into the new season with Guardiola focusing on defensive reinforcements as the priority area strengthening his team.

Stones remains a central figure in Guardiola's plan, but the England centre-half admits that he endured a series of ups-and-downs last season.

"Definitely," Stones told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview ahead of Saturday's International Champions Cup clash with Tottenham in Nashville. "People do focus on the transfer fee, but that's football.

"It's all part of the game, but I'm just focused on getting into the team, playing well and making sure that the team wins.

"If you are focused and driven as I am, I don't think the outside influences should have an effect.

"I am not saying that it doesn't, though. Every player has been there, or been through a bad patch.

"For me, it's not about what [pressure] comes from the outside, it's about me, knowing that I haven't done my job as well as I should have done.

"It's about making mistakes in games and probably beating myself up more than I should do, really.

"You take it out on yourself because you think that you have let your teammates down and yourself down, and that's what hurts."

Many outside observers saw the lengthy injury absences of City captain Vincent Kompany as a contributing factor in the struggles endured by Stones last season.

And while Stones admits that Kompany's return to fitness will be a huge bonus for him and the defence, he insists that the only person who can ensure he realises his potential is himself.

"I'm a big enough lad now to know that I should just get over it and do what I have to do, by getting out on the training pitch and correcting the faults," Stones said.

"I think a lot of things can get overlooked and a lot of emphasis is put on the mistakes, rather than the good things.

"Maybe 60 to 70 percent of the season is positive, but that's how football works I guess and it probably happens too much.

"What matters is how I feel and if the manager is happy and my family are happy -- that circle are who I should listen to.

"But you grow more knowledgeable during the time you play in the Premier League. Every new manager, new chapter, has been a learning curve.

"Pep has given me a lot of confidence and tips and pointers, not only him, but the other players as well. These are the guys that have won trophies and that's what I'm aspiring to do."

City go into the new season with Guardiola having added three new full-backs, a new goalkeeper and potentially a new centre-half to his squad.

The City manager has also tinkered with formations on the tour of the United States, with Stones being used in a three-man defence and a back-four.

But despite the upheaval of new players and alternate systems, Stones is confident that he can avoid teething problems with the new defence in the early weeks of the season.

"I played with Walks [Kyle Walker] with England, so I know how he plays," Stones said. "You get to see how he plays watching the games on TV, but I also know him on a personal level too.

"It comes down to training and the games I've played with him and the likes of Vinnie and Nico [Otamendi] -- it's easy to get along with them and work out how they play.

"It's basically a building block from last season. Walks has fit in well straightaway and, personally for me, it's exciting to play with such top-class players.

"And as for Vinnie, to have to him back as the captain and the leader of the club is great for us."

While Stones is determined to secure his place at the heart of City's defence this season, England manager Gareth Southgate has made it known that he is keen to experiment with the defender as a midfielder on the international level.

Southgate performed a similar positional switch for England as a player, but while Stones is happy to explore the role, he admits it is one that he is unfamiliar with.

"I remember it [playing in midfield] coming up during the last England trip," he said. "It is one of those things that you deal with when it comes.

"I have never played there in a professional game, so it is a difficult question to answer.

"You will play anywhere for your country, but you don't want to be exposed in a position you're not familiar with either.

"There are times when any player will play anywhere, if the manager asks you to, but it is whether it will be a regular thing.

"But if the opportunity comes up and Gareth wants me to play there, we will definitely sit down and talk about it in the camp and go from there."