Called up to the England team for the first time at the age of 18, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has admitted it was daunting to be in the company of some greats of English football.
The 2011-12 season saw the youngster play 26 times for Arsenal in his first year with the club, and ended in a call-up to the national team. By the time the summer was over, the teenager had started a game for his country at a major tournament.
Being surrounded by stars didn’t make things any easier, as the midfielder was nervous in the company of the likes of John Terry and Steven Gerrard.
“You struggle to eat your food,” the Arsenal man said, looking back on his first experiences of international football. “Your stomach is churning. You start putting things on your plate you don’t even like eating just to make time to look around to assess the table plan, see where everybody is sitting and work out where is the best place to sit.
“You don’t want to be taking JT’s seat on day one or Steven Gerrard to have a go at you for nicking his spot. There are all these things to think about.
“In all seriousness, though, it was relatively easy for me to integrate myself. They are a good group of lads so I can’t say anything bad about them.”
Just over three years on the atmosphere is more relaxed, with a younger squad and a fresher mentality. There are fewer established stars in the England side and it has a younger feel to it.
At the age of 22, Oxlade-Chamberlain is now a much more senior member of the squad. A favourite of Roy Hodgson, he is more or less guaranteed a call up when fit, and insists the atmosphere around the squad will be no issue for new players to negotiate.
“But nowadays it would be a lot easier to integrate yourself. Even the senior players are a lot younger. So the new lads coming up will have played against them or even with them in an England under-18, under-19 or under-21 game.
“I don’t think there are many things you could do wrong. It is very friendly and there are no set places. It’s definitely the way to be.”
Hopefully, like Oxlade-Chamberlain, any new additions to the squad find their feet quickly. With his light-hearted attitude there doesn’t seem to be any danger of that.