Leon Wobschall: Stones’s progress can only solve half of defensive worries

John Stones.
John Stones.
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A saying in days of yore suggested that if you needed to find a centre-half worth his weight in gold, all you had to do was whistle down a pit shaft and your call would be answered.

The mines may have long gone in the South Yorkshire town of Barnsley, but a young lad by the name of Stones has still managed to reach the international surface. But as for the rest of the country, the seam looks exhausted regarding future international-class centre-halves.

Where have they all gone? Defensive midfielders, too?

Any supporters caring to write down the line-up of the England side which will step out for their opening game of the Euro 2016 finals – whose bloated format seems to dictate that it is harder not to qualify than to qualify – are likely to have two vacant areas as difficult as The Times crossword to fill.

Namely, the centre of the back four and the area just in front of it screening the defence.

John Stones’s progress will hopefully be such that he will fill one of the central defensive slots.

As for other centre-back contenders and holding midfielders, send your answers on a postcard, please.

With the stars of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka dimmed somewhat and Chris Smalling and Phil Jones hardly in the ascendancy, what of the others?

Stephen Caulker has just been relegated at Cardiff, although he is likely to move on, and the likes of Ryan Shawcross and James Tomkins are decent centre-backs who play for average clubs.

But a step up from Cahill and Jagielka? No.

With the smart money on Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard both retiring, what of the enforcers in front of the back four, likely to play alongside Jack Wilshere, if he steers clear of injury and kicks on at Arsenal. Cue a collective scratching of heads.

The international careers of Leighton Baines and Glen Johnson are likely to have reached their apex, but there are full-back answers in Jon Flanagan, Kieron Gibbs, Luke Shaw and possibly Andre Wisdom, three of whom could be playing Champions League football next term.

Further up the pitch, the future is bright with Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge all claiming invaluable experience in Brazil.

Injury has prevented Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott from being afforded that chance this time around. But their time will come.

The shop window looks fine. Less so the goods at the back.