BY SAM SMITH AND ANDREW MCSTEEN
Wandsworth-born Callum Hudson-Odoi has set himself the task of regaining his place in the England senior team.
The Chelsea forward became the youngest-ever player to start a competitive England game in March 2019, featuring against Montenegro aged 18 years and 135 days. However, the now-20-year-old has had to settle for a place in the U21s ever since.
Hudson-Odoi has four goals in eight U21 appearances and helped Aidy Boothroyd’s side qualify for next year’s U21 European Championship. The tournament takes places across a three-month period between March and June.
But, ultimately, the aim for Hudson-Odoi is to earn his place back in Gareth Southgate’s senior side.
He said: “It has been a rollercoaster [last few years]. Up and down, up and down. But stuff like that you move on from and think of the present and the future.
“For myself I want to make sure I am training every day. Working my hardest, trying to get in the team and working my way back to the senior team in the England set up. The last 18 months I have enjoyed bits, and not enjoyed bits.
“I feel I am getting more confident game by game. I want to get the ball, get past defenders, and get goals and assists for the team. I want to get wins and trophies as well.
“The managers (Southgate, Boothroyd and Chelsea’s Frank Lampard) have always told me to be more confident in what I do. Get goals, be a threat, that is the main thing everyone is looking at as an attacking player. You need goals to help the team.
“I am only 20. Sometimes people forget the age because I have been around for a bit. I started young. I have just turned 20. I have kicked on well and I can keep progressing day in day out. The last 18 months have been strange, not something I’d have liked, but we have to deal with it.
“I put pressure on myself. I want to prove myself every time, do my best every game. Sometimes there is a lot of expectation and you just have to play your normal game, and the result will go your way. I just say to myself keep being positive, things might go wrong but be positive, and hope the result will be good.”
Hudson-Odoi is a senior member of a comparatively young U21s team. He revealed that he had some advice for the 17-year-old forward Jamal Musiala ahead of the Bayern Munich man’s first start at the level.
Musiala grew up in New Morden and was a few years below Hudson-Odoi at Croydon’s Whitgift School. The teenager marked his first start for England U21s with a goal in the 5-0 victory against Albania – scoring the third after Hudson-Odoi and James Justin had netted.
Lewisham’s Eddie Nketiah scored a second-half brace as the Young Lions emphatically ensured that they topped Group C unbeaten.
Musiala, who was born in Stuttgart to a Nigerian father and a German mother, also qualifies for Nigeria and Germany – he has played for the latter at youth level. Hudson-Odoi has tried to get the former Chelsea youth teamer to declare for England.
“Jamal is a top, top player. I have known him from young, when he was at Chelsea. He is a great player and I’ve watched him for a while. He went to the same school as me as well,” Hudson-Odoi told a press conference while on international duty.
“From day one I wanted to welcome him to the U21s as soon as possible. He is a good guy, very shy, and before the game I wanted to see he was feeling himself and confident and not scared or shy. I said play your own game and get a goal for yourself which he did. I was really happy for him.
“I have always said to him: ‘Keep doing your thing day in day out and you will get to the seniors sooner rather than later.’ Wherever he is I will be watching him and see he is doing himself proud.
“We talked that (Musiala’s international allegiance). I said he should be staying with England. He knows a lot of the boys already and has been really welcomed into the team. I said to him, I can’t choose for you, but it would be nice if you stayed with England. Hopefully he gets to the seniors as quickly as possible.”
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