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Everton gem would go to Brazil if former front man had his way

| 08.05.2014

As the announcement of Roy Hodgson’s 30-man preliminary World Cup squad creeps ever closer, there’s no shortage of opinions over who should and shouldn’t be included.

Whether those views are being spouted in the pub by passionate fans or through the media by knowledgeable pundits, the England boss certainly won’t be short of advice should he be struggling with a decision or two.

Perhaps the one that’s troubling him the most revolves around the centre-back position, with Phil Jones’ shoulder injury potentially leaving him short in three positions should the gurning Manchester United man fail to recover in time to make the final 23, something that’s currently an 8/15 shot.

If that were to happen, and the decision over picking a replacement fell at the feet of Match of the Day anchor Gary Lineker, then Everton’s John Stones would be the man boarding the plane.

The 19-year-old has enjoyed a run in the Toffees first-team, having started the last 12 matches in all competitions, and has impressed the former England front man.

Lineker, who thinks England are short of candidates in the heart of defence, said: “I really like him and he has got a lot about him.”

In terms of what Stones, an 8/1 shot to be included in the final 23-man squad, will bring to the English table, he’s a slightly different style of defender than any of the other candidates to replace Jones.

More Rio Ferdinand than John Terry, the Hemsworth local leads Everton’s pass success stats for the season, completing 89.8 per cent of his passes per match on average.

That’s a better figure than any other English centre-back available to Hodgson – Terry has completed 90 per cent of his passes but is a retired international despite having a case for inclusion.

4/1 shot Steven Caulker could rival Stones for a spot on the plane should Jones fail in his fitness race, although Lineker ruled him out on the basis that he “struggles a little bit on the turn”.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.