‘I feel like winning the World Cup definitely helped me playing on a big stage’: Phil Foden believes glory with England’s U17s has set him up for senior action after being handed call-up for Nations League fixtures
- Phil Foden believes winning the U17 World Cup has set him up for senior glory
- Foden had picked up his winner’s medal in 2017 after England skewered Spain
- Gareth Southgate let Foden find his feet before handing him his senior call-up
- Foden is certainly prepared for the challenges that come with football at the top
Phil Foden remembers the night clearly. Sitting at home, gripped by the fever of a major tournament, he perched in front of his television and expected England to march past Iceland.
He had just turned 16. He was rapidly rising through Manchester City’s academy but that did not stop him joining in games on his estate in Stockport, dreaming that one day he would get the opportunity to play for England on the biggest stage.
England meant everything to him, so his expectations were soaring for that last-16 game at Euro 2016. What he and everyone else saw, however, was a team gripped by fear. There was no imagination or fluent passing or any of the qualities a class side should boast.
Phil Foden believes his experience winning the U17 World Cup will help him make the step up
The England starlet remembers feeling disappointed when the senior team exited Euro 2016
‘It was disappointing that night,’ he said, with an air of understatement. ‘To go out like we did when everyone thought we were going to go further.
‘But now I feel that we’re ready for the tournaments coming up and I feel we can build on the past and hopefully get to a final.’
If Iceland was the nadir in a bleak past, Saturday’s game against the same country can be symbolic of an exciting future. Foden, with his balletic poise and beautiful passing, is a poster boy for the fearless generation – a player who knows what it is like to win with England.
Foden is a poster boy for a fearless generation and knows what it is like to win with England
Whenever he returns to his parents’ home, there is a shimmering reminder of his ability in the form of the winner’s medal he received after sparkling at the Under 17 World Cup in 2017, the trophy secured in India with a 5-2 skewering of Spain.
‘If Foden doesn’t make it as an elite footballer, we should all pack in and say it is never going to happen for a young English talent again – this kid is a superstar in the making,’ Phil Neville wrote in Sportsmail on the Monday after that triumph in Kolkata.
Foden showed himself to be fearless back then. In the intervening years, all he has done is add weight to the belief that he is going right to the top.
Foden, for both Manchester City and England, has proved he has what it takes to reach the top
It will be fascinating to see what dynamic he can add for Gareth Southgate as the head coach plots his way to next summer’s postponed Euros. ‘We are a young team and nothing fazes us,’ said Foden. ‘We just go out and play our football. That is a good thing because we don’t think too much and we can start controlling games now. We have the players for that and I’m really confident for the future.
‘If you win youth tournaments it can give you the experience to go and win one with the first team. I feel like winning the World Cup definitely helped me playing on a big stage and not to feel the pressure so much.
‘I’ve played many big games for City now and I have learned to cope with the fans and the pressure. It definitely helps.
Gareth Southgate has watched Foden’s progress closely and also handled him responsibility
‘I used to think of myself being in the England team, so that’s why I’m so glad to be here. It’s a real honour. I’m just hoping I can get the chance to play.’
Southgate, you sense, is itching to unleash Foden. He has watched his progress closely and handled him responsibly, allowing him to find his feet with the Under 21s before ushering him forward.
Foden was superb for the Under 21s but every time you saw him in that domain, it was clear this was someone playing at a different level. The hours studying and working with David Silva, perfecting the finer points of football, were well spent.
Whether his chance comes in Reykjavik on Saturday or Copenhagen on Tuesday, there is no question Foden is well prepared for the challenges that come with football at the top.
The England boss has allowed Foden to find his feet with the U21s before ushering him forward
There is no need to pretend, as he did when he was younger, that he can play for England. His time has arrived in reality.
‘Every kid on the estate used to dream of playing for England and it seems crazy that I am here,’ said Foden. ‘If I make my debut, it will be a big moment for my family and I’m going to enjoy it. I want to try to keep the shirt and play for England for many years. I feel like, as a team, we can go further than we have in the past. I feel really confident with the way we are going and the players that we have got.
‘We need to start winning tournaments and I hope in the future we can do that.’