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JOHN STONES could quickly become an Everton first team contender after impressing on his debut for the club’s U-21s, says Alan Stubbs.
The £3m January signing from Barnsley enjoyed an accomplished run-out for Stubbs’ reserve side during their 1-0 victory at Fulham on Monday.
Stones, 18, had already been an unused substitute at Old Trafford on Sunday when Moyes’ men were beaten 2-0, but got his first taste of competitive action in a blue shirt in West London 24 hours later.
Now Stubbs, who was pleased with the overall defensive discipline shown by his young side, is tipping the England U-19 international to make rapid progress.
He said: “He did well and he will need to get used to the way we play. It was the first game that he’d had for a few weeks so that will do him the world of good.
“He’s an option for the manager if called upon, so it’s great for him to get the first game under his belt.”
The Under-21s recorded a second consecutive clean sheet against Fulham on Monday, after Conor McAleny’s first-half strike edged a tight encounter.
Shane Duffy, another young defender hoping to get his chance for the first team, was also impressive in central defence alongside Tyias Browning, with Stones at right-back.
“In the second half we rode our luck a little bit but the lads showed a great spirit amongst themselves to repel Fulham,” said Stubbs (left). “You need that when you come away from home.
“They hit the crossbar a couple of times with shots from outside the box after we managed to get a goal inside the first half, when we looked threatening on the break. It gave us something to hold on to.
“I told the lads that 18 months ago we wouldn’t have been able to have ground out a result like that.
“We would have conceded and maybe lost the game from being in a winning position. The most pleasing thing for me was that they showed that desire to see the game out.”
AN UPSET stomach might have prevented Sylvain Distin achieving a personal landmark on Sunday – but the Frenchman remains more settled than ever.
The 36-year-old had to be withdrawn from the starting line-up at Old Trafford during the warm-up after falling ill with a virus, a setback which denied him the chance to become the first foreign outfield player to make 400 Premier League appearances.
But even if he had been able to face the Red Devils, the laid-back veteran would have simply taken the memorable occasion in his stride.
He said: “I’m not there yet so I’m not pleased. But if it happens then it’s obviously something pretty amazing.
“I don’t count games to be fair so you could say to me 200, 300, 500 and I would just have said ‘yes’. But overall it’s not just the quantity of games, it’s the quality as well.
“I just take games one after each other and enjoy my time, but they are the kind of records that you can only be pleased about.
“I’ve been here (in the UK) for a long time and I enjoy it here. Do I feel English? No. Do I feel comfortable? Yes.”
Distin’s first taste of league football on these shores came in September 2001 with Newcastle United – coincidentally against Manchester United.
The Magpies ran out 4-3 winners that afternoon, although Distin actually counts his second Premier League outing as his proper debut.
“I only played something like a minute, if that. I can’t really remember touching the ball so I don’t count that as a game,” he says. “I remember my first real game which was West Ham away. One centre-back (Warren Barton) got injured and I came on. That was the first game for me.”
Distin spent one season on loan at St James’ Park, after which he completed a £4million move from Paris St Germain to Manchester City the following summer.
After half a decade with City, he then moved to Portsmouth in 2007 before switching to Goodison Park four years ago.
Distin recently signed a new one-year contract with Everton, which will extend his stay until the summer of next year.
“When you think about it, it’s something you have to be proud of because playing in the Premier League is not easy and staying there is even harder,” he added.
With Distin hoping to be back in action when Everton resume their FA Cup campaign at Oldham on Saturday, he selects two very different experiences in that competition as his stand-out career moments.
“My highlights were two FA Cup games. Winning the FA Cup with Portsmouth and the semi-final with Everton,” he said. “It was an extreme contrast.”
EVERTON have joined the chase for Chelsea and England star Frank Lampard.
David Moyes’ club are willing to offer him a three-year deal on sliding-scale wages, if he agrees to stay within the pay structure, which has a top pay of around £80,000 a week.
Lampard will be a free agent in the summer and is also wanted by Manchester United, AC Milan, Paris St Germain, LA Galaxy and Guizhou of China.
Moyes has already seen the benefits of signing an England star who has looked after himself in the form of captain Phil Neville.
Neville joined from United in 2005 and is still going strong at 36, having made 21 appearances for the club this season.
He made his 300th Everton appearance on Sunday in the 2-0 defeat at former club United.
But Lampard, 34, still hopes Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will make a U-turn and offer him a new deal.
Lampard’s goal against Wigan on Saturday took him to 198 for the Blues, just four behind record scorer Bobby Tambling.