Emile Smith Rowe: Arsenal midfielder says England call-up ‘a dream come true’ after whirlwind 18 months

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Emile Smith Rowe described his first call-up to the England senior squad as “a dream come true” as he reflected on a whirlwind 18 months.

The 21-year old Arsenal midfielder has been added to Gareth Southgate’s squad for the first time ahead of England’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Albania and San Marino.

He had initially been set to join up with the U21s but was brought in after Marcus Rashford, James Ward-Prowse, Mason Mount and Luke Shaw did not report for international duty.

Smith Rowe, who arrived at St George’s Park on Monday before training with his new team-mates, could not contain his excitement when speaking to the media on Tuesday afternoon.

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Image: Smith Rowe has scored four goals and registered two assists for Arsenal in the Premier League this season

“It’s definitely a dream come true. I didn’t expect it,” he said. “Obviously I was planning to go with the U21s and I got a phone call the day before from Gareth, saying I’d been called up to the first team. It was a great moment for me and my family.

  • Analysis: How Smith Rowe hit another level

“My mum was actually downstairs at the time, I was upstairs. I ran downstairs straight away and told her. It was very emotional, but they were so proud of me and I couldn’t wait to meet up with the squad.

“I was really nervous during my first training session, to be honest. It’s always hard coming in with new players.

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“Obviously I play against these guys every week, but for England it’s always different. After a while I got used to it but I was definitely nervous. I’m sure throughout the week I’ll get into it and get more comfortable.

“Wearing the same training kit and passing the ball to each other, it’s crazy to be alongside these great players. I’m a bit speechless but I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can.”

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Gareth Southgate takes England training ahead of their World Cup qualifiers against Albania and San Marino knowing four points will guarantee qualification for Qatar 2022

    Smith Rowe has been in impressive form for Arsenal this season, scoring four goals and registering two assists in 11 Premier League games.

    He recently came runner-up in the latest Sky Sports Power Rankings and his goal against Watford on Sunday saw him become only the fourth player aged 21 or under to score in three consecutive Premier League games for Arsenal after Cesc Fabregas, Jose Antonio Reyes and Nicolas Anelka.

    “It’s always difficult when everyone’s talking about you and stuff, but it’s good when it’s in a positive way,” Smith Rowe said.

    “I try not to look at it as much as I can, I try to stay as focused as I can, but it’s good that I’m getting these positive comments about me.

    “It’s unbelievable to be next to those names and a great moment, but the most important thing was getting the three points on Sunday.”

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    FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal’s win against Watford in the Premier League

    Having only broken into the first team at the turn of the year following a loan spell at Huddersfield Town, Smith Rowe’s upward trajectory has quickly accelerated.

    He has gone on to score 12 goals in 58 appearances for Arsenal so far and back in May was challenged by boss Mikel Arteta to become one of the best No 10s in Europe.

      Asked whether he thought he’d be in his current position 18 months ago, he said: “No chance, I probably would have laughed at you.

      “Everything’s happened so quickly and I try to keep my head down as much as possible, keep working hard and try to listen to everyone around me.

      “It’s surreal being here at the moment and I’m just trying to learn as much as I can and we’ll see what happens.”

      England host Albania at Wembley on Friday before rounding off World Cup qualification with a trip to San Marino – the lowest-ranked side in world football – on November 15.

      England remain unbeaten on the road to Qatar but drawing two of their past three matches means they only have a three-point cushion at the top of Group I with two games to go.

      Ashley Cole: Smith Rowe call-up fully deserved

      Ashley Cole has hailed Smith Rowe’s rise through the Arsenal ranks and says the attacker full deserves his England call-up.

      Ex-Arsenal defender Cole, who worked with Smith Rowe with England’s U21s, joined fellow U21 coach Joleon Lescott in tipping Smith Rowe to keep developing into a top player.

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      England U21 assistant coach Ashley Cole says Emile Smith-Rowe’s progression into the senior national squad shows that the pathway for young players is working

      “He’s one of Arsenal’s biggest and better players this season and last, and I think his hard work, dedication and quality have paid off,” Cold told Sky Sports News.

      “He’s got the opportunity now with the senior team and, knowing the boy he is, that mentality won’t change; very humble kid, willing to learn, listen, and develop and try to be a top player.

      “I think it’s well deserved and hopefully we’ll get a few more from this (U21) group go up because they deserve it.”

      Lescott said: “Amazing. I was lucky enough to work with him earlier in the year. You can instantly see how talented he is.

      “To see him step up is a great honour for us. We will certainly miss him because he is a top-quality player but it’s what we are in this role for, to develop players and have them progress.”

        Analysis: How Smith Rowe hit another level

        Sky Sports feature writer Nick Wright:

        “With his sweeping finish in Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Watford, Smith Rowe scored his fifth goal in eight appearances, beating his total for the whole of last season only a couple of months into the new one.

        “The academy graduate was challenged to contribute more goals by Mikel Arteta during his breakthrough campaign and he is delivering. Smith Rowe, already one of the most exciting young players in the country, is now taking his game to another level.

        “His importance to his club is growing by the week. There have been four goals and two assists in the Premier League so far, giving him the highest combined total among Arsenal players this season. “He’s just been superb,” said Arteta recently.

        “He will hope to seize his chance with England as he has at Arsenal.

        “The 21-year-old was instrumental in their improvement last season and has embraced the responsibility of taking the No 10 shirt after signing a new contract with his boyhood club in July.

        “Together with Bukayo Saka, he has come to symbolise an exciting new chapter. His progress, which has accelerated in the new campaign, is a result of hard work and meticulous attention to detail behind the scenes.”

        Read the full feature here

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