John Stones has leapt to the defence of England teammate Harry Maguire after a season of what he described as 'harsh' criticism towards the Manchester United man.
Maguire endured a tricky 2021/22 campaign which saw him booed by England fans and targeted by a hoax bomb threat at his family home, both of which the centre-back did his best to ignore.
National team partner Stones, who has watched Maguire from the blue side of Manchester, has hit out against the 29-year-old's critics and stressed that he enjoys playing alongside Maguire for the Three Lions.
"I think some of the criticism that I’ve seen personally and over this season has been harsh," Stones said.
"I don’t want to get into that but I think how he’s conducted himself on and off the pitch, he should be extremely proud of that and, all I can say is, I enjoy playing with Harry and I hope that we can do for many more years to come.
"I used to play against Harry as a kid and I knew his quality then. I think he was the age group older than me but I got the opportunity to play against him and it took quite a few years to be able to play with him here.
"I think we hit off straight away, he is an incredible person off the pitch, first and foremost, and an incredible partner and player to play with on the pitch.
"So I hope we can keep playing together and building this partnership, whoever it may be, in a back three or back four."
When asked what makes them work so well on the pitch, Stones insisted that his play style is complimented by that of Maguire and vice versa.
"I’d like to think [we make each other comfortable]," he said. "I’m sure Harry would say the same thing, the feeling is definitely mutual and we’ve always got things to improve on, that’s a given.
"We know that we can improve as individuals and me and Harry are always talking about, when we do play together, what opposition we’re up against, what kind of striker we’re up against and how we can build up better with the ball, how we can defend better, what decisions to make if people run in behind and I think that’s the beauty of it – how he speaks about the game and speaks about his ideas or thoughts. It’s not always easy and we do argue on the pitch sometimes but I think, with our relationship, that’s the right thing to do sometimes.
"If I can’t take a dig off him on a pitch and if he can’t do off me then I don’t think we should be playing together. That sums it up really."