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Naismith confident Stones will stay


Everton remain determined to hold on to England defender John Stones, right

Everton remain determined to hold on to England defender John Stones, right

Everton remain determined to hold on to England defender John Stones, right

Everton forward Steven Naismith has emphasised the club are very much looking ahead to a future with John Stones in the team.

The Toffees rejected pre-season bids of £20million and £26million from Chelsea for 21-year-old England defender Stones.

And while Everton would not comment on Tuesday on reports they had turned down a third bid of £30million from the London club, Press Association Sport understands the Merseyside outfit's stance on the matter has not changed - that Stones is not for sale.

That was something stressed last week by Everton boss Roberto Martinez.

And regarding Stones, Naismith told Press Association Sport on Tuesday: "We definitely want him to stay - he is a fantastic guy and footballer, and a mainstay in our team.

"You want your best players to be here to hopefully continue bringing success to Everton.

"He has progressed rapidly in the last two years and we want him to continue that under the leadership of the manager (Martinez) and also (Stones' Everton captain and fellow England centre-back) Phil Jagielka - I'm sure Stonesey would be the first to say he learns so much from him on a day-to-day basis."

Then asked if Everton could cope with the loss should further bids lead to Stones' departure, Naismith - speaking at Toxteth Jobcentreplus, where he was giving tickets for Toffees matches to unemployed fans - said: "I think the club's stance on it has been pretty straightforward and the manager is looking forward with Stonesey in the team.

"The manager has mentioned wanting to bring in three more players in to strengthen, and I don't think anyone has ever thought about Stonesey moving on."

Martinez earlier this month said Stones had been affected by Chelsea's interest, but he subsequently praised the player's focus in Everton's opening match of the season, a 2-2 Barclays Premier League home draw against Watford on August 8.

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And 28-year-old Scotland international Naismith added on Tuesday: "John has gone about his business day-to-day in training in such a professional manner.

"He has then taken that into the games, because he has been one of the stronger performers in the team since the start of the season."

Speaking about Stones last Thursday ahead of Saturday's 3-0 win at Southampton, Martinez said: ''I have said before the player is not for sale and that is the end of it.

''Our situation has been very clear from the beginning. We are not a selling club who will lose our best performers.

''He is very important player for us and we are looking forward to seeing the best of John over the next few seasons, not just the next few weeks.''

Speculation of Chelsea returning for Stones has heightened after John Terry was substituted by Jose Mourinho for the first time in 177 Premier League games in Sunday's 3-0 loss at Manchester City.

After the match, Mourinho said: ''The point was not to take John out, but to put (Kurt) Zouma in. I want to have my fastest player on the pitch and not on the bench.''

Mourinho has spoken of his lack of first-team defensive options, with five defenders before Baba Rahman's arrival made it six.

The 21-year-old Ghana left-back signed from Bundesliga side Augsburg on Sunday evening.

Speaking prior to the start of Chelsea's season - which has begun with a Community Shield loss to Arsenal, a draw with Swansea and the City defeat - Mourinho said: ''We have five defenders and we cannot go to the Premier League with five defenders. That's our weakness. Five is not enough. That's obvious.''

Mourinho was asked how many defenders he needed ahead of the season curtain-raiser.

''Seven plus a quality kid,'' he said, saying Ola Aina would be promoted to the first-team squad when needed.

It means Chelsea still have one defensive position to fill, but Mourinho has also talked of a determination for his side to continue to show their new-found financial restraint - something Everton may test.

:: For a second year, Steven Naismith is donating tickets for Everton home matches to unemployed football fans throughout the season in an initiative with Jobcentreplus centres across Liverpool.

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