Despite an exciting first season at Arsenal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has admitted to feeling huge nerves when he first arrived for England duty.
Still just 18 years of age and surrounded by players who had won everything in club football and had hundreds of international caps between them, it must have been difficult. Then again, wasn’t he used to that? He was playing for one of the biggest clubs in Europe, training under Arsène Wenger and alongside Robin van Persie every day.
Nonetheless, the winger still felt huge pressure to prove to his new international team-mates that he was worthy of their company.
“When you first go to the England squad and know how good the England players are, the biggest challenge is to try to prove yourself to your team-mates,” said the Arsenal midfielder. “As soon as you know you have got the respect of your team-mates, you can really feel comfortable. Then you fit in the team a lot more easily.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain made over 20 Arsenal appearances in his first season. The decision to substitute him against Manchester United was booed, he played central midfield in a huge game against European giants AC Milan and thoroughly impressed, and he trained with the likes of Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry.
You’d expect it to be a given that fellow England players would admire his ability at such a young age, but he still felt insecure until he was explicitly told by other players that they liked him.
“The time when I realised that maybe I did fit in was when Danny Welbeck and one of the older lads commented on something I had done during the season. They had watched my game. ‘It was really good when you did that,’ they’d say, ‘when you took the man on in that situation’.
“That made me have some sort of belief that they rated me as a player.”
It seems ridiculous that a talented player could have doubts until his peers tell him he’s doing well, but maybe it makes sense at just 18 years of age. One thing is for sure: Oxlade-Chamberlain is confident now, and he doesn’t need any fellow England player to make sure he belongs.
He’ll look to add to his 20 caps during next week’s fixtures against San Marino and Switzerland before returning to club duty.