Jadon Sancho looks back on a year with England and his personal pressure for success

Saturday 12 Oct 2019
Jadon Sancho scored his first goals for England in the win over Kosovo in Southampton

Jadon Sancho admits he still finds it hard to believe that it’s a year since he made his England senior team debut.

The Borussia Dortmund forward was first called up by Gareth Southgate last October for the Nations League games in Croatia and Spain. 

And Sancho quickly caught the eye when he came off the bench in front of an empty stadium in Rijeka, proving to be one of the bright sparks in a game as England were held to a goal-less draw by Croatia. 

“It was different,” he admits, when looking back at what must go down as one of the stranger situations in which to make your international bow. 

“But I was just happy I got out and had an opportunity to show what I could do, and I was proud of my performance when I came on.

Sancho in training at St. George's Park ahead of the trip to Czech Republic

“It feels so much shorter than a year, I think it’s because the international link ups are just for a week and then you’re back away with your club until the next one.

“It’s kind of surreal really , if I could describe it, it’s just crazy how it’s gone so fast.”

But one thing the 19-year-old is even more surprised at, is that it took him 11 months to score his first goal for the Three Lions.

That moment came last month against Kosovo at St. Mary’s, with the former Watford and Manchester City youngster bagging two in a topsy-turvy 5-3 win as England made it four wins from four in Euro Qualifying.

And he admits the moment is still up there as one of the highlights so far in his rapidly-developing career.

“It was a great feeling, if I could rewind that moment every week then I would do, it was crazy,” he said.

“It would’ve been nice if I could’ve done it at Wembley so that’s my main goal now, to score at Wembley in front of your home crowd.

“I can’t believe it’s that close to a year before I scored though, and I should’ve scored in the Nations League Finals.”

It’s clear Sancho puts plenty of pressure on himself to perform and produce something in every game.

That’s something which he puts down to his younger days, whether that was competing for individual goalscoring or tournament awards with the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Phil Foden and Ian Poveda-Ocampo with the younger England teams or simply just when he was growing up playing cage football in south east London.

Sancho in action at the 2017 U17 World Cup in India

“I feel like every time I play, because I’m an attacker the fans are expecting something, like for me to provide and help the team.

“So that’s my motivation when stepping out, to try and impact on the game. These days you get judged on how many games you play and how many goals you scored, people start to talk if you’re not doing those things.

“For me, it’s a personal thing and I really want to do well for my team so every time I’m out on the pitch I want to give 100 per cent and come up with an assist or a goal.

“I have to put pressure on myself in every game because I know if I get a goal and an assist, even if we come away without a result, I can say at least I did try and help the team.

“Obviously, you’re not happy that you’ve lost but you can take something away from the game and move on to the next one.”

In full flight against Kosovo at St. Mary's

Sancho’s record with England at all levels is impressive, with goals through each group since his days with the U16s.

And many of the players who he played and grew alongside in those early days are still featuring for England, after going on to win the U17 World Cup in October 2017.

“We have a crazy history in this year,” he said. “Those players now, they’re all in the U21s and the U20s. 

“Most of them I played with right back in the U15s and they’re still going. “Usually, players fade out after a period of time, but my age group, we have a good connection and bond and I’m proud that.

“Hopefully I’ll see some of them soon in the senior squad.”

Sancho and then Three Lions will be back at Wembley next month for the clash with Montenegro, which is England’s 1000th game. Tickets are on sale now, so be there for a historic, milestone occasion.

By Nicholas Veevers