DAVID FLITCROFT hopes that £3m John Stones will make an early return to Barnsley on loan, believing he has ‘unfinished business’ at Oakwell.
The Barnsley-born youngster, rated as the best young defender in England by the Reds boss, moved to Premier League Everton on transfer deadline-day.
The 18-year-old said his goodbyes to his former team-mates yesterday.
Stones – in his first season of regular competitive football – has been bought by Toffees boss Dave Moyes with an eye to the future with the talented defender expected to be bedded into the first-team picture gradually at Goodison Park.
Despite confirming Barnsley did not insert a loan return clause as part of the deal which took Stones to Everton, Flitcroft has raised the subject with Moyes about the teenager returning to Oakwell for a short-term stint.
Moyes will assess Stones’s integration into the first-team squad in the coming weeks and if he decides to loan his new signing out, Flitcroft has let it be known he would be at the front of the queue for a player whose loss was equated to “losing a member of the family’ by the Reds chief.
“It is something we would love to explore (Stones returning), for sure,” he said. “I think there’s a chance. But don’t forget David has paid good money for the player and he is part of Everton’s toolbox and if he can add to that without underdeveloping him, David will have that option.
“But certainly, if there is a sniff of a chance – and there are a few clubs who will want Stonesy – I would like to think he would want to come back and finish some unfinished business off.
“I think at the minute David wants to assess him in his squad. It has been difficult this week as Stonesy has been on international duty, but I think over the next three weeks Dave will be able to see where he is at with John in terms of if he is going to feature in his plans and is ready for Premiership football.
“Like the step up from League Two and League One to the Championship, the jump up to the Premier League is an adaptation. Most of that for John will be in the summer.”
Stones may well have been very much the jewel in the crown of Oakwell’s flourishing academy production line, but several gems still remain including Paul Digby, Danny Rose and Reuben-Noble Lazurus, with the latter mulling over a new deal offered earlier this week.
The move is very much within Barnsley’s declared policy of securing young players’ futures for the long term, while also aiding in their development and strengthening their hands if the top-flight clubs come calling, as they did in the case of Stones.
Flitcroft insists Noble-Lazarus, whose development stuttered somewhat after becoming the youngest player to feature in a Football League match when making his Reds debut at the tender age of 15 years and 45 days against Ipswich in September 2008, is in a ‘good place’ again after some difficult times. The club have rewarded the teenager’s progression and growing maturity with fresh terms.
Flitcroft said: “With the success of John Stones, the club are probably realising it came from offering him a longer-term contract and we have done the same with Danny Rose and Paul Digby.
“Reuben is part of that group and I think it will now be a club policy to try and get promising young players tied up.
“You have got to have a development plan for them. As coaches and mentors to these players, we are advising the club, not what might happen now, but in 18 months’ time, to protect themselves. It’s a policy I definitely agree with.”
Flitcroft is also hoping another player – Matty Done – can, like Noble-Lazarus, get his career back on track during his loan spell at SPL side Hibernian after a fraught campaign at Oakwell.
Done will remain at Easter Road for the rest of the season, with Flitcroft admitting the 24-year-old has been badly affected after a switch to Crystal Palace fell through in August – with a £750,000 price tag putting off the Eagles.
“With Done, I want him to find himself a little bit again,” said Flitcroft. “He had a potential move to Crystal Palace which didn’t go his way and I think it has had an emotional impact on Matty.
“I want him enjoying his football and playing and sampling a new experience. I think it will do him great playing up in Scotland.
“Mentally, it will clear a few cobwebs and we will get a player back at the end of the season for the start of next who will be fully clear of any emotional wreckage.”