LONDON (Reuters) - England’s World Cup qualifying match against Malta on Saturday will signal a fresh start for the national team after a difficult few months, defender John Stones said on Wednesday.
England suffered a humiliating round of 16 loss to Iceland in the European Championship and last week parted company with manager Sam Allardyce following an undercover newspaper sting.
A late Adam Lallana goal gave England a 1-0 win over Slovakia in their opening Group F qualifier, Allardyce’s only game in charge.
“Malta will be a big occasion for us personally, back on home turf, new manager and exciting times for us as players as well,” Stones told reporters.
”It’s a different chapter and a new challenge ahead of us.
“We all want to come here and win things, didn’t happen in the summer it’s almost a fresh start leading to the World Cup and take it game by game in the group stages, and two good wins will put us in a good spot in the group.”
The 22-year-old said the experience of players such as captain Wayne Rooney had been vital.
“They are massive for me personally and the young boys coming through, giving us pointers in games, situations and when things are not going well,” Stones added.
“They have been there and been through those experiences before and it’s kind of new for us in some respects. They are massive for the group. It’s great we all get along. We have a great team spirit about us.”
The Manchester City defender also backed interim boss Gareth Southgate to get the job permanently.
“He knows all the players in the set-up. He’s been great for the Under-21’s when I’ve been there, he’s got silverware in the summer,” Stones added.
“A new chapter for him and a new challenge for him, he’ll be relishing it, coming here working and trying to do his best in the four games and whatever happens after that it is down to the FA.”
Reporting by Nivedita Shankar in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond