Men's Under 21s
Men's Under 21s

England U21s newboy James Maddison gives us his story after first call-up to squad

Norwich City’s James Maddison linked up with the England U21s squad for the first time at St. George’s Park this week. The former Coventry City player has caught the eye with his displays and goals in the Championship this term. And as the 20-year-old takes up the story of his rise to the Young Lions squad, he also recalls an early memory of boss Aidy Boothroyd from both of their times with the Sky Blues.

Tuesday 07 Nov 2017
James Maddison prepares for a training session with England U21s at St. George's Park

I know it’s a cliché to say, but it’s everybody’s dream to get called up to play for their country, especially at U21 level and it’s a proud moment for myself.

It just re-iterates the good form I’m in with my club at the moment and it’s was a great moment for me and my family.

I had a little taste of life with England a few years ago when I was called up for an U20s game with Canada. I was meant to play in the first match at St. George’s Park, but unfortunately I pulled my hip flexor the day before the game and missed out, so that was disappointing at the time but I just hope to get the chance of a cap this time.

I had no inkling at all about the call up. I mean, you obviously keep an eye on all of the England squads when you’re in form and I knew I wouldn’t be far away because of that but it still came as a surprise. I’ve scored a couple of good goals and managed to play some good games and when I got the call-up I was delighted.

Maddison is with the U21s for the first time, having previously been called up for the U20s in March 2016


The first person I spoke to was Dan Ashworth and then Aidy called me afterwards, but it was great to let my loved ones know straight away and everyone was really happy for me.

There’s a funny story really and I mentioned it to Aidy earlier…I was a young boy at Coventry when he was the manager there, I was maybe in the U14s at the time. I remember once, we were at the training complex for the academy, the Alan Higgs Centre, and he came to watch our session.

That was very rare at the time, for the first team manager to come and watch an academy session. I just remember seeing him there and it was such a big thing for everybody so we were all working that bit harder. I’m not sure if Aidy remembers it, but I won’t forget it.

I was a boyhood Coventry fan, Sky Blue through and through, it’s my hometown club. It was a dream to play for them and I have such fond memories of my time there. It’s something I take great pride in and I think it’s been a major part of my development.

When you’re young, you just want to play games and being at Coventry in League One at the time, it was a blessing in disguise really.

There was a trust in young players from the managers I had there and I got thrown in at a young age – I was 16 when I was first on the bench and then played for the first time when I was 17.

Maddison has been getting to know his new U21s squad-mates this week


Although, I made my ‘home’ debut at Northampton Town as we were sharing grounds at the time, so that was strange for me but it was just a pleasure to put on the shirt and get out there.

That was the exposure that I needed and I think it had a big positive influence on why I’m having success now.

I’m quite a technical player and as a youngster, I always liked to have the ball at my feet and have a dribble, play one-twos and get the ball back. Growing up, there was a lot of street football and five-a-sides from the age of about seven onward.

Everyone was into that because it was the only way you could play out with your friends for as long as possible and little things like that are so good for your development, the constant practising that you do at that age.

It all helps you in the long run. I was just playing football and one of my mum’s friend’s husbands was running a side so I joined up. I then got a trial at Coventry’s academy and it went from there really, the start of the journey.

Another important milestone for me was going up to Scotland and joining Aberdeen on loan. I was struggling to get minutes for Norwich at the time, so I asked if I could go out on loan and the gaffer at the time thought Aberdeen would be the best place because it’s a physical league and with the type of player I am, it would be good for my development.

And it was a really good spell for me and I look back with great pleasure to be honest, I enjoyed it, there was a good set of lads, good manager and I played a lot of minutes which is what you want when you’re a youngster.

Maddison celebrates one of his goals for Norwich City


This season, I’ve been enjoying my football with Norwich so much. Daniel Farke has been a very good manager for me and he’s a very good coach.

He seems to like my style of play and the type of player that I am and I also like the way in which he talks about the game and likes to coach, so it’s been a perfect fit for me and I’ve played a lot of minutes this season.

That’s all I’ve wanted, to be out there and playing games every week, that’s what it’s about and it’s why we do the job.

For now though, I just want to try and impress the manager here and I want to get a feel for it as we’ve got such a talented squad, full of Premier League quality. You can see it in training, it’s a step up and I’m relishing it.

By James Maddison England and Leicester City