I can still remember the first time I met John Stones, almost nine years ago, back in September 2012.
At the time, I was covering the England MU19s team and I recall getting the squad list through from then head coach Noel Blake for an early-season friendly game against Germany.
Among the list was a new name, featuring for the first time in an England squad, in an 18-year-old John Stones of Barnsley FC.
He’d already made a handful of first-team appearances for the Tykes in the Championship at the time, which was something most of his new international squad mates were yet to experience but this would be his first time away with the national team.
Alongside him in that group were the likes of Raheem Sterling, Jordan Pickford, Eric Dier, James Ward-Prowse and Nathaniel Chalobah, who’d all previously represented the Young Lions at younger age groups.
And when John reported to the camp, he made an instant impression on the staff with his down-to-earth nature and approachability.
It was clear he was thrilled to be involved on the international scene and after just a few days of training before the squad headed over to Hamburg for the game, it was clear that Blake and his coaches were also impressed.
Generally speaking, it was rare that a new face in a squad would go straight into the team on their first call-up, but Stones was named in the starting line-up for the game.
It took place at the home of VfB Lubeck, in front of almost 5000 fans, and despite a 3-1 defeat with Crewe’s Nick Powell scoring England’s first-half goal, the scoreline didn’t really reflect the game.
And for Stones, he’d been one of the stand-out players and drew special praise from Blake after the game and remained a key player for the MU19s that season.