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Martinez hails mature Stones

Published 09/08/2015

Roberto Martinez felt John Stones, pictured, produced a mature performance in Everton's draw with Watford
Roberto Martinez felt John Stones, pictured, produced a mature performance in Everton's draw with Watford

Everton boss Roberto Martinez praised the focus shown by Toffees defender John Stones in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Watford.

In the build-up to the Barclays Premier League opening-day clash at Goodison Park, Martinez admitted Stones had been affected by Chelsea's interest in him this summer.

The manager has also been critical of the way the London club have made it publicly known that they want the 21-year-old England international.

But Martinez also suggested the situation could be viewed positively in terms of Everton having a talent worthy of such interest and Stones learning from the experience, while insisting he himself was not letting it worry him as he prepared his players for the Watford game.

And when asked after the draw with the Hornets for his assessment of Stones' performance, the Spaniard said: "I think John was sensational.

"Maybe I am a bit biased, but when I see him on the pitch I feel safe - him and (fellow Everton centre-back) Phil Jagielka have developed an understanding and a partnership that I think is going to be very strong.

"I think his performance was of someone who was focused on the game, very mature, and I think he led from the back.

"He is at a very young age, and sometimes it is incredible to try to justify his age."

A key attacking figure for Everton in the Watford contest was forward Arouna Kone, who came on around the hour mark with his side trailing to Miguel Layun's 14th-minute strike and having struggled to muster much of a response.

Kone subsequently passed up a decent opportunity with his head, but he then teed up Ross Barkley's fiercely-struck equaliser in the 76th minute and, after Odion Ighalo's reply in the 83rd, converted the Toffees' second equaliser himself with four minutes of normal time remaining.

Since following Martinez from Wigan to Everton in the summer of 2013, 31-year-old Ivory Coast international Kone has been restricted to just 18 Premier League appearances for the Merseyside outfit, while Saturday's was only his second goal.

He has had to contend with major injury, as well as questions over whether is good enough to be an Everton player.

And after the fine impression Kone made on Saturday, Martinez said: "Arouna arrived at Everton and I don't know if when he was driving to Finch Farm (the club's training ground) he had a black cat cross the road or something, but everything went against him.

"He had a really poor injury, it was very difficult for him and he never had any momentum or any real luck.

"Against Watford, in the worst possible moment of the game, he takes responsibility.

"When he came on the pitch, you could see he had to win the crowd over. He misses a good chance and you think it is not going to be his moment.

"But he had a big influence, came up with a quality finish, and I was delighted for him.

"I think it is a great story. I feel that can be a turning point and everyone at Everton can see what Arouna can give to the team."

Kone ultimately spared Everton's blushes against newly-promoted Watford, whose coherent, organised display surprised many given the amount of change that has happened at the club.

Over the summer, the Hornets have acquired a new boss in Martinez's compatriot Quique Sanchez Flores and a whole raft of new players from different parts of the world - six of whom were in the first XI at Goodison Park.

But after the game, Flores emphasised the professionalism he has seen from his group.

"It is difficult - but not completely difficult, because they want to do everything," he said.

"They give the possibility to manage. They try to understand us as quickly as possible, to get with the system, to avoid mistakes.

"So it is difficult, but they are highly professional and this is good for us."

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