‘Why now?’ - England’s James Maddison opens up on World Cup injury woes after first cap in three years against Ukraine
- Maddison was part of England's WC squad
- Did not play a minute after injury
- Recalled the "tough times" in Qatar
WHAT HAPPENED? The Leicester City midfielder was called up by Gareth Southgate as part of England's squad for the 2022 World Cup. However, he was omitted from the first two matchday squads due to an injury he picked up against West Ham just before the tournament, and had to settle for being an unused substitute after returning to full fitness as England made it to the quarter-finals. Maddison has now admitted to enduring "tough times" in Qatar on the back of an unfortunate injury setback.
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WHAT THEY SAID: He told reporters: "There was a lot of sad faces when I was in my room in Qatar by myself, thinking: ‘Why? Why now, this little injury, when I’ve worked so hard to get to the World Cup with everyone clamouring for me to be in the squad?’. There were tough times in my room in Qatar, FaceTiming home. It was almost like a battle with myself to say: ‘Don’t take this for granted. I might not be able to shake this injury off, but it will leave me in good stead if I show Gareth [Southgate] and the people who have questioned my personality that that’s all rubbish. I get on so well with the lads and the staff. What you see from the outside is exactly how it is. I hoped stuff like that would leave me in good stead, and it probably has."
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Maddison was rewarded for his mental toughness on Sunday as Southgate handed him his first cap for England since 2019 in a 2-0 European Championship qualifying win over Ukraine. "It felt great. It almost felt like a second debut," he said. "I know that doesn’t really work, but it feels a lifetime ago since that Montenegro game [in November 2019]. It felt brilliant. It’s refreshing to be out there with the lads in a strong team and a big game. I really enjoyed it. I love football — I always say it. I’ve worked hard, waited a long time for that opportunity. It feels like I’ve just been waiting so long to get the manager’s trust, and hopefully I repaid it with my performance."
Maddison added on being deployed in a left-wing role instead of centre midfield: "People might [have looked] at the lineup and seen that Maddison’s on the left wing. How’s that going to work? But it’s actually a really nice position for a player like me, especially when you have Ben Chilwell at left-back, who’s such a good runner and such a threat. Gareth said to me, ‘Play with freedom, you have the licence to play in the pockets just as you do for Leicester’. It just gave me that freedom. I didn’t feel restricted. I’ll watch the game back and I’ll probably nit-pick. I probably should have scored to be honest, but I’ll try and enjoy the moment."
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WHAT NEXT FOR MADDISON? The midfielder will now shift his focus back to Leicester City, who are struggling in the 17th place in the Premier League table and set to make a trip to Selhurst Park on Saturday to take on Crystal Palace.