Ainsley Maitland-Niles on his reaction to message that confirmed first England call

Tuesday 01 Sep 2020
Maitland-Niles speaks to England's YouTube channel at St. George's Park

Ainsley Maitland-Niles says he was left speechless by receiving the news of his first England call-up – just minutes after he'd marked his 23rd birthday by helping Arsenal win the Community Shield.

Fresh from scoring a penalty in the Emirates FA Cup holders' shootout victory over Premier League champions Liverpool, Maitland-Niles returned to the dressing room to find that Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate had been in touch.

"Gareth text me after the game. I was just starting at my phone, and I was like 'nah, surely not?'" he told England presenters Rachel Stringer and Michael Timbs during a live broadcast from St. George's Park on Tuesday afternoon.

"He just said 'I would normally call you but you're probably getting hassled by the media so I'll just text you and let you know: congratulations, you've been called up'. I was just staring at my phone.

"I didn't know what to reply back to him with. I was just like 'oh, wow' – I left it for like five minutes because I didn't know what to say. Literally, I had no words for him. My fingers just froze.

"It was too good to be true almost – it was my birthday, I'd got man of the match, I'd scored a penalty and then England called me up, all in the same day. It's crazy."

Maitland-Niles was part of the England squad that won the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2017, but he says that achievement has been surpassed by that of making the senior squad for the first time.

"It's special, you know?" he affirmed. Not a lot of people can say that they've played or even been picked to train with the England national side. From Under-17s to Under-21s is fantastic, don't get me wrong – I'm not going knock that. But this is just above and beyond, and just a dream come true.

"I think it's that special moment you've always dreamed about as a kid."

By Jim Lucas