Rob Holding's 'honour' after England U21 call for Toulon

Thursday 19 May 2016
Rob Holding trains with England Under-21s in Toulon

Rob Holding admits it will be a "great honour" when he gets to wear the Three Lions at this week’s Toulon Tournament.

The Bolton Wanderers defender was called into the England Under-21s squad for the first at the weekend ahead of the annual competition in southern France, after catching the eye of boss Gareth Southgate with his late-season form.

And he admits the last few days have been something of a blur since meeting up with his squad mates at St. George’s Park on Monday afternoon and now challenging for a spot in the team to face Portugal in England’s opener on Thursday evening.

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"When I got the call-up, on standby initially, I was thrilled with that so when I got a call on the following weekend to say that I was needed, I was over the moon," said Holding.

"I’ve really enjoyed myself so far, I didn’t even realise I was being watched until Gareth Southgate saw me against Hull at the end of the season.

"I’m massively looking forward to it – I can’t wait to get started now and pull the shirt on, even if it’s just for ten minutes at the end of a game, just to wear the shirt and play will be a great honour."

With an initial four games to play in the group stage, there’s every chance the 20-year-old will get more than his aim of "ten minutes at the end of a game".

Next week sees the Three Lions face Guinea, Paraguay and Japan in the space of five days and Southgate has promised his players that the workload will be shared across the squad equally.

And it’s a squad which has welcomed Holding, along with fellow newcomers Jack Grealish and Kasey Palmer, to settle into the fold quickly.

Rob Holding during his first training session with England Under-21s at St. George

Holding during his first training session with England Under-21s at St. George's Park earlier this week

"I knew a few of them because there’s a few big names in terms of where they’re playing, but it’s a good set of lads and they’ve accepted me into the group fine," he added.  

"It was the first time I’d been to St. George’s Park, so it was exciting to go there and the training has been bright and sharp ever since.

"It’s a lot faster and I’ve been getting used to it, but that’s what it needs to be, that’s the step up and I’m hopeful I can deal with it."

Tameside-born Holding has been with Wanderers since he was seven, coming through their academy ranks before breaking into the first team last season.

And whilst it was a disappointing campaign for the Lancashire club as they were relegated from the Championship, it’s been a bittersweet moment for Holding, who was happy with the opportunity he was given to shine and how that has ultimately led to this summer’s trip to Toulon.

"It’s a good end [Toulon] to the season for me, I want to finish on a high after the struggles and sad time of relegation," admits Holding, who was named as Wanderers' player of the season..

"But for me personally to have that break and then straight to being called up for England, it can’t get much better than that.

"It’s something all young players strive towards and if you get noticed, there could be an opportunity there.

"There are players at the lower ends of the leagues and if they can get into the first team, take their chance and play games, you can get noticed.

"It’s a knock-on effect, if you get that chance to play and take it by playing well, you’ll be kept in the loop for things coming up in the future."

By Nicholas Veevers in Toulon, France