Phil Foden was back in Gareth Southgate’s good books with his history-making Wembley double in the 4-0 win against Iceland.
But the 20-year-old England midfielder admitted afterwards that being sent home following an away game against the same opposition in September was “one of the hardest moments” of his life.
Foden, along with Manchester United teenager Mason Greenwood, was told to leave the England camp for breaking coronavirus protocol after the 1-0 win in Reykjavik.
The Manchester City youngster returned to competitive action for England on Wednesday against familiar opponents, and turned in a stellar display in an emphatic Nations League win, opening his international account with a superb late double.
Having set up Declan Rice’s opener – the West Ham midfielder’s maiden England goal – Foden swept home from Jadon Sancho’s pass to make it 3-0 before rounding off the scoring with a crisp finish from the edge of the box.
In the process, Foden became the youngest player in the history of the England national team to score more than once in a match at Wembley, but the playmaker insisted he was simply relieved to have repaid manager Southgate’s faith.
“It’s up there with one of the best games and it means a lot to me,” Foden told Sky Sports.
“I just couldn’t stop smiling after my goal, it’s an unbelievable feeling and I’m just going to try and enjoy it as much as I can.
“[The incident in Iceland] was one of the hardest moments of my life. That’s the time you need the trust of your manager and Gareth had a lot of respect for me and it means everything to me. I just wanted to repay him with goals and do well.
“I was just determined to come back and do the best I can. I was a little bit nervous at the start of this camp but I got used to it after a while.”
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 18, 2020
Southgate was thrilled for Foden to make such an impact on his first competitive appearance for his country since September 5, with the City man having come on as a substitute in a friendly win over the Republic of Ireland last week.
“I’m really pleased for him, he’s such an exciting player,” Southgate told Sky Sports.
“It was a big week for him to come back in, not easy for him to walk in the door when he’d left like he did previously. For us, it’s done. Today the two goals were a glimpse of what he’s capable of.”
England finished third in Nations League Group A2, though the win means they remain unbeaten in their final game of each year since a 1-0 reverse to Germany in 2013.
With Mason Mount also getting on the scoresheet, three players aged 21 and under scored for England in the same match for the first time since February 1883 against Ireland.
Mount dovetailed well with Rice in midfield – the pair having been close friends since their time together at Chelsea’s academy.
“We’ve been best mates since we were eight years old, we’ve seen each other grow,” Rice told Sky Sports.
“When we knew we were starting tonight together it was special and to both score, our families will be bursting with pride.”
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