John Stones is determined to return to his best after a harrowing end to last season.
The Manchester City defender found himself under huge scrutiny after a calamitous error cost England badly in their UEFA Nations League semi-final against the Netherlands in June.
That also came at the end of a period when Stones had largely found himself out of the City starting XI as Pep Guardiola’s side closed in on an unprecedented domestic treble.
Stones said: “I love England and playing for England and it was a difficult time. It was a mistake.
“There were other mistakes in that game that weren’t highlighted as much but that was the pivotal moment I suppose.
“I took some time away in my holidays and reflected. I’ve come back this season fighting for my chance to play again and put that right, and I’m sure I will because I’ve got that strong mindset of putting things right and being honest when you’ve done something wrong.
“I held my hands up and I told all my team-mates and the staff there what I’d done wrong, and that we’d move on from that.
“I’ve moved on from that and I’ll try to correct that with my performances in the future.”
The 25-year-old started just three of City’s final 19 games in all competitions last season, a dramatic decline after seemingly establishing a strong partnership with Aymeric Laporte in the first half of the campaign.
He said: “I think the last two months were frustrating but any player not playing is frustrated.
“I had the mindset to keep fighting for my place and then it’s down to the manager to choose his side. You have to respect that.
“I wanted to come on and try to affect any game that I could when I came on, however many minutes I got.
“It’s about the team and not about John Stones or whoever’s playing. That’s why we won four trophies last season.
“It shows the strength of the squad and the selflessness of the squad in that respect. That’s why we were so successful.”
The challenge for City in the coming year is to better last season’s incredible achievements.
“I’m of the mindset it can be topped,” said former Everton defender Stones. “I think we can go one better and try to fight for the Champions League.
“That’s our aim and we can’t let the bar drop now. It is in our hands. We have got to keep fighting for everything in every game and every competition.”
Stones was speaking to media during a boat trip in Hong Kong, where City are spending part of their pre-season tour. They play a friendly against Kitchee on Wednesday after games with West Ham and Wolves in China last week.
Stones said: “It’s always tough coming back from your holidays and back into running, and it always makes it harder when it’s so hot out here and humid and not like rainy Manchester.
“But on a personal note it’s good to see the world a bit more and come and see fans we’ve never met, and see that around the world Man City are loved.”
Brazilian forward Joelinton is ready to step up to the challenge of honouring Newcastle‘s number nine shirt following his club-record transfer.
The 22-year-old has agreed a six-year deal after leaving Hoffenheim for St James’ Park in a deal reported to be worth up to £40million.
The Brazilian scored 11 goals in 35 appearances for the German club last season and becomes the first signing since Steve Bruce was appointed Newcastle boss.
The arrival of the 6ft 1in forward will help offset the departures of Ayoze Perez and Joselu.
Joelinton knows he will carry a weight of expectation, but is ready to meet the challenges head on.
“I know it (the number nine shirt) is a huge responsibility, the great Alan Shearer, the team’s biggest idol. I know it is a big responsibility, but I’m prepared,” the Brazilian said to NUFCTV.
🗣 "The fans haven't stopped writing to me. This affection made me really happy."— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) July 23, 2019
Watch club record signing Joelinton's first interview with NUFC TV now: https://t.co/QOKIV0nFxg #NUFC #JoelinToon pic.twitter.com/ytxI6Ah45z
“I know that everybody at the club has faith in me having brought me here today. I hope to contribute on the pitch. I’m happy and prepared.
“Rest assured there’ll be no shortage of desire and dedication to score lots of goals and honour the number nine shirt.”
Joelinton started his career in Brazil with Sport Recife, where he made a first-team debut aged 16.
Following a move to Germany during June 2015, the forward then spent two seasons on loan at Austrian side Rapid Vienna, where he scored 21 goals in 79 appearances.
Newcastle boss Bruce believes Joelinton’s best is yet to come.
“He’s got everything that a modern-day player wants. He’s big, strong and athletic and of course he’s got age on his side too which is vitally important,” Bruce told the Newcastle website.
“He’s learned the history and wanted it (the number nine shirt) and that’s always a big shirt to fill. But in his eyes it was, ‘Bring it on – it’s what I’m here for’.
“He’s risen to that challenge and I’m sure he will be a big, big favourite of the supporters.
“He’s got an incredible work-rate about him, he’s got a really good humility about him and all the attributes a top striker needs.”
Newcastle have broken their transfer record to sign Brazilian striker Joelinton from Hoffenheim. The reported £40million fee tops the £21million the Magpies paid for Miguel Almiron in January.
Here, PA looks at Newcastle’s most expensive players.
Joelinton (from Hoffenheim, £40million, 2019)
The 22-year-old has agreed a six-year deal at St James’ Park after scoring 11 goals in 35 appearances for Hoffenheim last season and is new manager Steve Bruce’s first signing.
Joelinton has been capped at under-17 level by Brazil and has been in Germany since 2015, as well as making an impression on loan at Rapid Vienna.
Miguel Almiron (from Atlanta United, £21million, 2019)
The 25-year-old attacking midfielder joined Rafael Benitez’s side in January, but his introduction to the side was hampered by injury and the Paraguay international made just 10 appearances before the end of his first season.
Almiron will hope to hit the ground running in his first full campaign at St James’ Park.
Michael Owen (Real Madrid, £16million, 2005)
Newcastle pulled off a coup to land the England striker despite interest from his former club Liverpool, whom he had left the previous year. Owen scored only 26 league goals for the club during an injury-plagued four-year spell.
Alan Shearer (Blackburn, £15million, 1996)
Shearer was already a Premier League and international star when he fulfilled his boyhood dream by joining hometown Newcastle in a then club record deal. He went on to score a club record 206 goals in 405 appearances.
Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV Eindhoven, £14.5million, 2016)
The Dutch midfielder made a positive impression in his only season at St James’ Park, playing in all 38 Premier League games and scoring 11 goals before Liverpool snapped him up for £25million.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Anderlecht, £14million, 2015)
Newcastle landed the talented Serbia striker on a five-year deal but he impressed only in flashes and struggled to hold down a regular place before joining Fulham on loan in January 2018. That move was later made permanent.
Florian Thauvin (Marseille, £13million, 2015)
The French winger came highly rated but he proved a big flop for Steve McClaren, with his brief spell at Newcastle best remembered for the games he arrived at wearing a tuxedo. Has flourished since returning to Marseille, initially on loan, after just six months on Tyneside.