Barnsley to Budapest: Callum Styles on his journey to Hungary debut

TWO years ago, Callum Styles was forced to cancel a mini-break to Budapest he had planned with his girlfriend.

The rich tapestry of life has decreed that 24 months on, the Barnsley midfielder will finally be packing his bags for a visit to the Hungarian capital this month where the focus will be on business as opposed to pleasure.

The Bury-born player was called up to Hungary’s squad earlier this week and could make his international debut when his new nation take on Serbia in a friendly in Budapest on March 24 – when some family members will hopefully be present.

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Several others could well be in attendance five days later when the Hungarians face Northern Ireland in another friendly in Belfast.

Barnsley's Callum Styles in action with Swansea City's Flynn Downes. Picture: PA.

It’s an uplifting story, with Styles – who qualifies for Hungary through one of his grandparents – first being alerted to his Hungarian heritage during the first lockdown in 2020.

While his own holiday trip to the city by the Danube was cancelled, the first seeds were sown regarding the prospect of another journey.

Styles, who travels out on Sunday, said: “I was meant to go with my girlfriend just after lockdown started. We had a trip to Budapest booked and a few weeks before, we went into lockdown and had to cancel it.

“To be honest, I only found out that my grandmother was Hungarian about two years ago.

Barnsley's Carlton Morris. Picture: Tony Johnson

“Around lockdown time, I just wanted to know more and then I found out it was Hungary off my mum and everything has fallen into place.”

Alongside Hungary, Styles’s family ties also potentially qualified him to represent Ukraine, alongside his home nation of England.

Red tape issues dictated that representing Ukraine – he has no relatives who are currently in the war-torn nation thankfully – was never a viable option.

Viewed as a bit of a ‘wonderkid’ during his formative years, Styles had been on the reserve list to represent England schoolboy sides, but never got the nod. England’s loss is Hungary’s gain.

Sadly, his Hungarian-born grandmother has passed away and will not witness him in action for the nation. But the family pride will be fervent if he gets capped later this month.

Styles continued: “I will be playing for her and her sons and daughters and the whole family and want to make them proud when I put on the shirt.

“I do have some relatives over there, so hopefully they can come and watch as well. I don’t think I will have much time after training and preparing for the games, but there’s a possibility after the game if they are there to meet up.

“A lot of players play in the Bundesliga, which is one of the best leagues in the world and international players are also the best players in the world and it will be good to be among those players and challenging myself.

“They are top-quality players who have played at the highest level. Hopefully, that rubs off on me and I can learn off them and develop my game and pick up valuable learning skills.”

The fact that team meetings have been in English will be a distinct help for Styles, who does not speak any Hungarian.

As for his footballing research, he has done a little bit and knows about the ‘Mighty Magyars’, with that feted Ferenc Puskas-inspired side famously becoming the first team outside of the British Isles to win at Wembley by virtue of a celebrated 6-3 triumph in 1953 – which proved a tactical reawakening for the English.

Hungary face England in a Nations League fixture in Budapest’s Puskas Arena on June 4 and it is something that has not passed Styles by either.

Styles, who turns 22 later this month, added: “I’ve done a little bit of research, but not too much as the games are coming thick and fast at Barnsley.

“But when I have a bit of spare time, I have a look and I have heard they were one of the best teams in the Fifties.”

Before jetting off to the continent, Styles has an important domestic club engagement with relegation-threatened Barnsley in action at Bramall Lane in a key Yorkshire derby with Paul Heckingbottom’s Sheffield United.

While home form has improved manifestly in recent times, the same cannot be said about the Reds’ away statistics, with last month’s win at another White Rose side in Hull City being very much in isolation.

Styles said: “We have got to turn it around. It is a massive game and an even bigger game for the fans.

“We want to do our best to give something back to the fans for supporting us through the good and bad times. We are hoping to take the game to them and cause an upset.”

Top-scorer Carlton Morris could be involved tomorrow if he comes through the club’s final pre-match training session today.

There were fears that the striker would definitely miss out after coming off with a calf issue in the second half of Tuesday’s victory over Bristol City at Oakwell.