Arsenal forward Emile Smith Rowe says receiving his first full England call-up was a “very emotional” moment.
Smith Rowe got the late call for the two World Cup qualifiers with Albania and San Marino after the withdrawals of Marcus Rashford and James Ward-Prowse.
“It was a great moment for me and my family – I ran downstairs straight away and told my mum. It was very emotional. They were so proud of me,” he said.
Smith Rowe, 21, has scored in three successive league games for Arsenal.
But he was expecting to be part of the Under-21 squad when he received his first call-up from manager Gareth Southgate on Monday.
England play Albania at Wembley on Friday before rounding off their qualifying campaign away to San Marino on 15 November. They require four points from those games to qualify for Qatar 2022.
Smith Rowe said he felt “really nervous” before his first training session.
“Obviously I play against these guys every week but for England it’s always different,” he said.
“Wearing the same training kit and passing the ball to each other – it’s crazy to be alongside these great players.
“Harry Kane, captain of England, what he’s done – it’s crazy to be training with him. [Raheem] Sterling as well. I always knew training would be difficult. It still hasn’t sunk in I’m actually here yet.”
The Croydon-born talent has represented England at every age level from Under-16s up to Under-21s – a similar progression to his Arsenal team mate and friend Bukayo Saka.
But while the duo both made their Arsenal debut in the same game in 2018, Smith Rowe then went on loan to RB Leipzig and Huddersfield, while Saka cemented a place in the full England squad.
“Me and Bukayo are so close off the pitch – I’m so happy for him every time he plays for England,” Smith Rowe said. “It’s extra special to be here with him, we’ve both come up from [the Arsenal youth academy at] Hale End. It’s a big moment for us and for Arsenal as well.”
Home chef pays off
Smith Rowe said Arsenal arranged for a private chef to work at his home to change his poor diet.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said recently that a change in lifestyle had been required to improve his performances.
“I think what he was talking about was my diet,” Smith Rowe said. “I didn’t used to eat that well, to be honest.
“I used to get cramp after 60 minutes and stuff. I wasn’t eating great, I wasn’t drinking that well, before games I wasn’t really that hydrated but since then I’ve tried to focus so much on it.
“The club have sorted me out a chef. They come to my house now.
“I’ve tried to cut out chocolate and takeaways as much as I can. I’m always eating from home now. He [the chef] has got a couple of pasta dishes and that’s good. I didn’t used to like fish but now I’m into it. Salmon and stuff.”