Callum Hudson-Odoi hopes the raw and fearless playing style of himself and childhood friend Jadon Sancho can prove a huge asset to England.
Chelsea winger Hudson-Odoi became the youngest England player to make his debut in a competitive international when he replaced hat-trick hero Raheem Sterling for the closing 20 minutes of Friday’s 5-0 Euro 2020 qualification rout of the Czech Republic.
His shot brought about an own goal from Tomas Kalas to compound the visitors’ misery and cap a Three Lions’ display brimming with attacking verve.
Sancho, 18 like Hudson-Odoi, impressed on his first competitive start for Gareth Southgate’s side, laying on Sterling’s first-half opener.
From the days of playing against each other in the Watford and Chelsea youth set-ups, through to their roles in England’s triumphant 2017 U-17 World Cup campaign, Sancho and Hudson-Odoi have formed a close bond – something that came in handy when the latter was promoted from England Under-21 duty amid a spate of injury withdrawals at that start of this week.
“We’ve known each other from very young. We used to play against each other and were always close friends, no matter what,” Hudson-Odoi said.
“I was at Chelsea, he was at Watford and we used to play against each other. We’ve always had a good talk off the pitch, called each other, speaking to each other to see how it’s going.
“He’s had a great season. Since I’ve been here he’s helped me from day one, always been with me – being comfortable and being confident with me.
“Having a friend like that is always amazing, just to bring you into the team and help you feel yourself and be yourself is obviously a great feeling.”
Confidence on the field is not something either player appears to struggle with.
— England (@England) March 23, 2019
Sancho has been a revelation for Borussia Dortmund this season, fully vindicating his decision to turn his back on a professional deal at Manchester City.
Dortmund’s Bundesliga title rivals Bayern Munich engaged in a prolonged January pursuit of Hudson-Odoi, whose quest for a maiden Premier League start under Maurizio Sarri will continue after England’s trip to Montenegro on Monday.
Both are facing up to dazzling futures at club and international level and Hudson-Odoi is not about to forget the importance of a playing style he and Sancho honed on the streets of their respective south London districts of Wandsworth and Camberwell.
“I think from being young I’ve been the same way. We’ve been playing, sometimes on the streets and stuff, that’s how we play,” he added.
“We normally play in the park and in the cages. It’s definitely good because we have that raw mentality and that mentality just to go at the defenders – be confident, be yourself, don’t be shy of no one.
“It’s great that we have the confidence and the ability to do that. We’ve just got to keep going.”
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