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England’s Stones grateful for Southgate’s personal touch

London (AFP) – John Stones said Wednesday that caretaker England manager Gareth Southgate had taken time to speak to players on an individual basis after being parachuted into the job following Sam Allardyce’s shock exit.

Allardyce was forced to resign as England manager after just 67 days and one game in charge following his controversial comments to undercover newspaper reporters investigating football corruption.

Now former England defender Southgate, promoted from his role as England Under-21 coach, has been put in temporary charge ahead of the World Cup qualifiers at home to Malta on Saturday and away to Slovenia on Tuesday.

Manchester City defender Stones, who played under Southgate at Under-21 level, said Southgate’s personal touch extended beyond the training field.

Asked if Southgate had spent time with each player, Stones told Sky Sports News: “He always does. At meal times, down time he’s always making time to spend a few minutes, whatever amount of time it is, to see how you are, how you’re doing with your club football and what he expects from you here.

“I think we all know what we expect from each other. It’s good to have a one-on-one conversation with the manager and see what his thoughts are and where we are moving forward.”

England are now on their third manager in just over three months after Allardyce replaced Roy Hodgson following the team’s embarrassing European Championship exit at the hands of Iceland.

“(We) just keep playing football, I suppose. It’s all we can do,” said Stones, 22.

“Getting called up for your country is the biggest honour you get as a player. You want to come here and work hard and get victories for us and for the nation.

“The managers that we’ve had have always made a big impact straight away, including Gareth over the past few days.”

Stones was in England’s squad at the Euros but did not play. However, following his £47.5 million ($61 million, 55 million euros) pre-season move to City, Allardyce picked him for England’s opening World Cup qualifier away to Slovakia.

England won that match 1-0, with Stones alongside Chelsea’s Gary Cahill in central defence — a partnership he enjoyed.

“Always playing with an experienced player is good, learning new things, with whoever I play with,” Stones said.

“Whether it’s Jags (Phil Jagielka), Chris (Smalling), sometimes you’re not going to play and watching from the sidelines, watching those guys, trying to improve off them I suppose. They’ve been here, got a lot of caps, played a lot of games for club as well.

“Whatever partnership plays for England is always a strong one because the training we do and how we work in training is always different combinations so we all know how each other play.”

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