Ainsley Maitland-Niles didn’t know what to do or say after receiving his first England call-up, taking him by surprise after the Community Shield.
Maitland-Niles had quite the Saturday, receiving Man-of-the-Match in the Community Shield against Liverpool, scoring a penalty and receiving his first England call-up – all on his birthday.
Speaking at the England training camp ahead of their first fixture this weekend, the Arsenal man explained how he found out he was joining his country’s senior national side over the break.
“Gareth must’ve texted me after the game and I was just staring at my phone,” Maitland-Niles said.
“[Southgate] said: ‘I would normally call you but you’re probably getting hassled by the media. So I’ll just text you and let you know that congratulations, you’ve been called up.’
“I was just staring at my phone, I didn’t know what to reply back to him…I left it like five minutes, I didn’t know what to say.
“Literally I had no words for him, my fingers just froze. So I put my phone back down, locked it and was like ‘Nah, surely not’.”
Eventually the 23-year-old got back to the England head coach, of course. Now he’s at St. George’s Park with the rest of the squad, trying to make enough of an impression in training to get his debut for the team.
England are travelling to Iceland for their first match on Saturday at 17:00 BST. That fixture is the opener of their new Nations League campaign. They’ll then head to Denmark on Tuesday at 19:45 BST.
After that, it’s straight back to Arsenal to prepare for the opening game of the Premier League season the following Saturday. Internationals always have the busiest schedules, and that’s something Maitland-Niles will need to adjust to now.
Congratulations to him on his first call-up anyway, and good luck if he gets a chance on the pitch!