Former Barnsley defender humbled by England call-up

Former Barnsley defender Alfie Mawson accepts he may not be a household name among England fans but he is ready to prove he belongs in a Three Lions shirt.
England's Alfie Mawson.England's Alfie Mawson.
England's Alfie Mawson.

The 24-year-old Swansea defender is one of four uncapped players in Gareth Southgate’s squad, joining Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook – the former Leeds United youngster – and Burnley pair James Tarkowski and Nick Pope as England prepare to face Holland and Italy over the next week.

The centre-half may have spent the best part of two seasons in the word’s most watched league and scored the winning goal against Jurgen Klopp’s star-studded Liverpool side just two months ago but remains admirably grounded despite his elevation to the international fold.

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Mawson, a surprising selection ahead of more decorated figures like Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling, believes some supporters may not be familiar with him and would forgive those who have for being sceptical.

“A lot of people wouldn’t even have heard of my name until this call-up and a lot of people are probably thinking ‘how on earth has he got a call-up’,” he said.

“It’s humbling to be here. It’s all come so quick, I never thought four of five years ago I’d be called up for the senior team. I used to say things like this don’t happen to people like myself but clearly they can.

“I’m very proud to be English and to be an English footballer. To possibly pull on a full England shirt and bellow out the national anthem, with the horrible voice I have, I’d love it.”

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Mawson’s excitement at being around the squad so close to this summer’s World Cup is tangible in every word but it should not be mistaken for wide-eyed naivety from a player who rose to captain Barnsley at the age of 21.

“I don’t want come in and be someone who they look at and think ‘he’s a youg lad, out of his depth’.

“I’m 24 now, for me that’s not such a youngster anymore. John Stones (23), Eric Dier (24), these players have been here for years. Why can’t I try to mould myself into something like that?

“You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, be too loud or too assertive, especially when I haven’t got a cap, but in training it comes out. In my position you have to talk, you have to be a voice and be a leader regardless.”