Michail Antonio is determined to bring his raw and ragged style to bear on international football after receiving his first England call-up.
West Ham winger Antonio, who already has two headed Premier League goals to his name this season, has taken a scenic route to the highest level.
The 26-year-old began his career at Tooting and Mitcham United before moving to Reading and enduring a succession of loan spells before arriving at West Ham via Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest.
While he admits his style is not quite in line with the refined, academy honed talents of his new international team-mates, many critics of England’s diabolical Euro 2016 campaign feel Antonio’s experience of footballing hardship before success is just what the national team needs under Sam Allardyce.
“The way I play, some managers are going to like me, some managers are not going to like me,” he told reporters ahead of Sunday’s opening World Cup qualifier against Slovakia.
“I’m not that academy player who’s going to pick it up, pass it and be neat and tidy all the time. I’m a player who’s going to get it and I’m going to run at the full-back. I’m quite ragged.
“People say I’m raw, and some people don’t like raw. But you can’t be neat and tidy and also be rising above people at the far stick to score goals.
“Once I’ve picked the ball up, I look at the full-back and I make my decision. Am I going to go past him?
“I don’t think about it before. Everything I do is a reaction. That’s why some people don’t like it.
“I feel like everything that has happened has shaped me to be the player I am and the person I am today.
“Certain things have happened in my life where it has been crazy touch-and-go situations, but it has let me know that, even if there are going to be difficult times, there’s always a bright side to everything.”
Antonio does not see himself as the emotional type but was almost moved to tears when two members of West Ham’s backroom staff informed him he had made the cut for Allardyce’s first squad in the aftermath of his goalscoring turn in Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Manchester City.
“I have only cried once and I nearly cried when I found out I had been called up,” he added.
“The first time I cried was when I had my first baby boy and this time I welled up and thought I was going to cry and had to take a moment to control myself.
“Even now I am still getting emotional as this is my boyhood dream to play for England.
“I have not played but I am so close. I have come here now and I have the Three Lions on my shirt. It is one of my dreams come true.”
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