Feb 212015

John Stones wore the face of an angry man as he walked with pace through the bowels of the Stade de Suisse and onto the team bus.

The 20-year-old has shown us pain before this season when he clutched his damaged ankle at Old Trafford but this was anguish of an altogether different kind.

Everton had just swept aside Young Boys in the Swiss capital to put a foot in the last 16 of the Europa League for the first time in seven years – yet the young defender was not happy.

You see, his night was different to his team-mates’.

Stones had left the pitch, not to the adulation of the near 4,000 travelling Evertonians at full-time, but instead to the jeers, cat calls and missiles from hostile home supporters with half an hour still to play.

The defender had been sent off as he paid the price for over-elaborating one too many times in the wrong areas of the pitch.

French striker Guillame Hoarau nicked the ball from him, closed in on Tim Howard’s goal but was then hauled down by a Stones desperately trying to atone for his mistake.

But, without hesitation, the Portuguese referee brandished his red card and ordered him off.

Stones offered token protest at the decision but his real anger was reserved for only himself.

For a supremely confident and wonderfully gifted player, it was a chastening experience.

Stones knew he had fallen below his exceptionally high standards and he didn’t like the feeling one bit.

As is his way, manager Roberto Martinez wanted to draw the positives from his sending off – but he was right to do so.

Stones’ error did nothing to alter the course of the game, as Hoarau blazed his spot-kick over the bar and Everton cruised to victory, while it has also served as an invaluable lesson.

After being forced to deal with the first serious injury of his senior career in October, the centre-half now had to cope with a red card blotting his otherwise perfect copy book.

But, as Martinez put it: “Without doubt, John is a better player this morning than he was last night.”

Stones now knows that sometimes you simply have to defend. And where that may go against his natural urge to play his way out of danger, there are occasions when you just have to put your foot through it.

After living on the edge in the first-half with Hoarau breathing down his neck, Stones was warned not to gamble like that again, but the message didn’t get through.

Only when Hoarau finally picked his pocket did Stones understand.

But that’s just it: Stones will learn from this.

And when he lines up against Leicester City on Sunday, expect the England defender to be back to his flawless best.

He must not be too hard on himself today. Stones’ bitter disappointment is the sign of a driven young pro but he must deal with it, move on and not let it fester.

Football fans can be a judgemental bunch but there was plenty of understanding after the game on Thursday night.

Stones rolled the dice and lost – but he won’t do it again.

We often laud his bravery on the ball but know we cannot lambast him on the odd occasion that it backfires.

And, at such a tender age, he will only perfect the art of defending and all its subtleties – as well as the more agricultural elements – with time.

But he will perfect them.

Evertonians realise this and know that Stones is a truly special talent and a player who can be a future captain of their club.

He will one day look back at this as a night that helped mould his career and, quite probably, he’ll think about it while wearing a wry smile.

Get with the programme at Goodison

Signed programmes up for grabs at Goodison Park Leon Osman signing the matchday programme ahead of Sunday’s game against Leicester

ONE hundred lucky Evertonians will get themselves a souvenir from Sunday’s clash with Leicester City at Goodison Park.

Roberto Martinez and several of his first-team squad have autographed 100 programmes ahead of the game and they will be randomly placed at the various selling points.

Each of the special programmes will contain one autograph that will be from either the manager, Seamus Coleman, Leon Osman, John Stones, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Ross Barkley and James McCarthy

Former Blues player and manager Joe Royle has also signed 10 copies on the history section page that recalls the day he scored a hat-trick against Leicester in a 7-1 win at Goodison.

Bobby is a Bluenose

PHOTO: Look who got involved with Blue Nose Day! Join the manager and get yours at Everton One or Two! #eitc27 pic.twitter.com/6r0rxXpRAw

— Everton (@Everton) February 20, 2015

Roberto Martinez has donned a blue nose to show his support for Everton in the Community.

Sunday’s game with Leicester City marks the 27th anniversary of the club’s official charity.

And to celebrate the occasion, Everton in the Community have launched Blue Nose Day.

Limited edition #eitc27 blue noses have been produced for fans to wear to the game.

Martinez said: “Lots of good work goes on behind the scenes constantly and we are all very proud of what has been achieved by Everton in the Community.

“The amount of lives and families that have been touched by this work is remarkable – it’s a formidable aspect of our football club.

“This is something to celebrate and support on Sunday because the work that has been done throughout Merseyside is fantastic.”

Fans attending Everton’s Europa League fixture in Bern this week wore Blue Noses and Swiss newspaper Blick carried a story on the club’s latest fundraiser prior to the game.

Blue noses are available to buy from Everton One and the Park End reception for a suggested donation of £2.

They will also be available to buy on Sunday at various points around Goodison Park, including in the Fanzone.

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