John Stones admits there was an upside to his recent injury lay-off – being able to watch Manchester City.
England defender Stones returned to action after a 12-game absence with a hamstring injury as City overcame Watford 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.
The victory saw the runaway Premier League leaders get back into their stride after their record-breaking 18-game winning run ended with a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Stones missed a lot of that sequence but at least enjoyed watching how his team-mates went about their work.
The 23-year-old said: “It’s been a joy to watch while I’ve been out. You get a different insight into how we play and see it from a bird’s eye view in the stand. In some of the games – not just here but away as well – we have done really well. Sadly the run got stopped at Crystal Palace but we’re just back to winning ways and that’s good.
“I think (injury) makes you appreciate it more. You should take advantage of it as much as you can when you are on the pitch and cherish the time you’re out there and give your all.
“There’s a learning curve while you’re injured as well and that’s how I try to take it, but to come back and get three goals, three points, is a good way to come back.”
City took a stranglehold on the game within 38 seconds as Raheem Sterling struck the fastest goal of the Premier League season.
It was also his 18th of the campaign and when Christian Kabasele put through his own net after 13 minutes, it seemed the job was done.
Kevin De Bruyne, playing as if he had not suffered a serious-looking injury two days before, was outstanding as City carved out several other chances.
De Bruyne himself hit the bar but City struck just once more through Sergio Aguero while Watford managed a late consolation through Andre Gray.
“It was good to be back out on the pitch with the lads,” said Stones. “It’s been great. It’s disappointing we conceded a late goal but I think it was always about getting three points and getting back to winning ways.”
Watford may not have travelled in much hope but the defeat continued their alarming slump in form after a bright start to the campaign.
The Hornets have won just one and lost seven of their last nine games and manager Marco Silva, having to contend with a lengthy injury list, is keen to bring in reinforcements this month.
Silva said: “We are working. The board knows what I expect as well. Of course it is really important, with the problems I have with the squad, if I have more players available for the next match.
“But my job is to work with the players we have in the squad, to develop them, improve them. I can (do that) and I hope we can improve some important positions.”