Jadon Sancho says being called up by England is the “biggest thing that could ever happen to a young kid” and pledged to make his mark on football like Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic has.
Fresh from signing a new and improved deal until 2022, manager Gareth Southgate doubled down on his focus on youth with his squad selection for the upcoming Nations League double-header away to Croatia and Spain.
Sancho was perhaps the most eye-catching inclusion, with his promising performances in Germany seeing him become the first player born this millennium to be called up by the senior team.
The 18-year-old is reaping the rewards of taking the path less followed, having made the courageous – if at the time slightly controversial – move from Manchester City to Dortmund last summer.
Sancho said: “It means a lot to me, especially my family. When I was a young kid, I always dreamed of obviously playing for my country. That’s the biggest thing that could ever happen to a young kid like me.
“It would be a dream come true (to make my debut against Croatia). I couldn’t ask for anything better than that.
“Obviously I just have to keep on working hard in training and see what the manager does.”
Sancho seemed a little taken aback by the media interest at St George’s Park, but not quite as much as when the call came in from Southgate rather than England Under-21s boss Aidy Boothroyd.
“I was a bit surprised, to be fair, because obviously I’m so young so I have still got a lot to learn,” he said with a smile.
“I’m just grateful that he’s seeing my progress in the Bundesliga and very thankful.”
Sancho politely declined to talk about leaving Pep Guardiola’s City but was forthcoming when it came to life in Germany, expressing gratitude to the Dortmund fans and head coach Lucien Favre.
The teenager is slowly learning German but adaptation to life on the field has been rapid, thanks in no small part to their trust in young players – and advice from the likes of team-mate Pulisic.
“Obviously Christian Pulisic is another young guy, and I learn from him all the time,” Sancho said of the United States international.
“His confidence to just take on players – no matter like whether there are four or five guys around him, he still tries.
“That’s what he tells me off the pitch, ‘you’ve just got to do your thing, that’s why you’re here – you’ve got to make everyone understand you’re Jadon Sancho’. That’s what he said to me.”
Playing alongside the likes of Pulisic, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus makes Sancho “more grounded”, while living with his dad in Dortmund also helps. The attacking midfielder’s performances have recently been rewarded with a contract extension with the German giants until 2022 but living abroad has brought challenges.
Sancho said: “Obviously moving from home, that was the biggest. Leaving my mum behind and my sisters. I miss them a lot, but I want to do what’s best for me and felt like moving to Germany was the best thing.”
Joining Sancho is fellow teenager Mason Mount, the Derby County midfielder on loan from Chelsea.
And Rams boss Frank Lampard has challenged the 19-year-old – on his first senior international call-up – to eclipse his own England career.
After spending last season on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, Mount has already scored five goals for the Rams and has been an ever-present so far this campaign.
Mount revealed Lampard had playfully told him he had made the senior squad before challenging him to beat the 106 caps he accrued playing for the Three Lions.
“He’s obviously got over 100 caps so he said to see if I can break that,” he said.
“It was the first thing he said to me. He’s given me loads of advice so far and I’m just trying to take it all in. It’s a long season so I’m going to learn so much off him.
“For me personally, learning off someone that’s done so well in the game, as a midfielder I can learn so much off him and I have done so far.
“I actually found out before he pulled me in the office. He was sitting in there with (assistant manager) Jody Morris... he said he was thinking of looking to drop me for the next game, and maybe give me a rest.
“He dropped that first but then he smiled and said, ‘No, I’ve just spoken to Gareth, you’ve been selected for the seniors’.
Southgate’s appreciation of Mount’s talent became clear when he asked the youngster to train with his squad for four days before they jetted off to Russia for the World Cup.
Mount admits that experience only made him more determined to return on a more full-time basis as he looks to become the first outfield Championship player to earn an England cap since Cardiff’s Jay Bothroyd in 2010.
“One hundred per cent, coming in before the World Cup, training for four days, it made me hungrier to get into the squad,” he added.