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Published: 16:49 | 2/2/16

Martinez: Stones 'strong enough'

Criticism not an issue, says boss

John Stones is comfortably strong enough to deal with recent criticism, says Everton boss Roberto Martinez.

The young central-back has endured a difficult period of late. After playing a loose pass that led to a penalty kick at home to Swansea City in the Premier League, Stones was blamed by some for Sergio Aguero's winning League Cup semi-final goal, being substituted in that second-clash clash at Manchester City following the Argentine’s header.

He was left out of the reckoning for Everton's FA Cup win away to Carlise United on Sunday, while facing media censure over his defensive discipline and alleged tendency to overplay in his own third.

Everton manager Martinez, however, is confident that the criticism will not affect Stones and that the defender will soon be back to his best.

“You are talking about a player of 21 who has played over 92 percent of the minutes (1,890 of a possible 2,070) in the league, which is a phenomenal return," said the Spaniard.

“When you reach the level of John Stones, you are going to get that scrutiny, and John is strong enough mentally to understand that is going to be his role in professional football and representing England for the next 15-20 years.

“John is such a strong-minded boy and has been through a lot over the last eight months but has done it professionally. In those moments, you need to know who you can trust and you need fair criticism and fair evaluation of your performances.

“It is not an issue.”

Stones is expected to return to Everton's match-day squad for the league encounter with Newcastle United at Goodison Park on Wednesday night.

The former Barnsley man appeared set to leave Merseyside for Chelsea last summer but, following a series of unsuccessful large bids from the West Londoners, remained with the Toffees.

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