West Ham winger Michail Antonio says he thought it was “banter” from the club’s physio when he was told he had been called up to play for England.
Antonio is the only potential debutant in Sam Allardyce’s first squad for their World Cup qualifier against Slovakia on Sunday.
The 26-year-old said he felt “very emotional” when he heard about his inclusion, although he did not believe it at first.
“Very emotional, especially when I found out,” Antonio told FATV. “It’s always been a boyhood dream to play for England.
“To get the opportunity now by being called up, it’s just breathtaking.
“I did an interview at the end of the game and I’ve come in [to the dressing room] and the physio has come over to me and said ‘You’ve been called up’.
“I was like, ‘ha ha ha, funny, good banter’. I looked at him for a good 30 seconds thinking if I could take him seriously.
“But then he showed me the piece of paper and after that I started welling up inside and all I wanted to do was call my missus. I gave her a call and obviously she didn’t pick up.
“Then I’ve got myself mentally ready and waited for it to come out.”
Antonio, who was playing in the Isthmian League in 2008-09, scored his second Premier League goal of the season in a 3-1 loss to Manchester City on Sunday and he said maintaining belief has been key in his career.
“The first day has been good, I thanked the gaffer for the opportunity,” Antonio said. “To pick someone like me with my background, it’s kind of like a risk but the gaffer has shown that belief in me and now I’ve got to show it to the world.
“If there’s one thing I’ve always believed in, it’s never give up. Always have belief in yourself and believe that you can achieve things. Anything is possible in life. Once I’ve reached one target, I always search for another.
“I went from non-league, I made the jump to Reading, didn’t have much time there, went to Sheffield Wednesday and then to Nottingham Forest, then I managed to get to West Ham, where I’ve always wanted to be, in the Premier League.
“But as soon as I got to the Premier League, I said to myself international [football is next], so I’ve got to set myself a new target now.”
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