For the final 20 minutes of last night’s 5-0 win over the Czech Republic, two players aged 18 or younger were playing at the same time for the senior English national team. The last time this happened was a rather unbelievable 138 years ago apparently.
138 - England featured two players aged 18 or younger (Hudson-Odoi and Sancho) in an international match for the first time in 138 years, since doing so on February 26th 1881 vs Wales (Thurston Rostron and Jimmy Brown). Cubs. #ENGCZE pic.twitter.com/hRn77yEAkT— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 22, 2019
Jadon Sancho, who left Manchester City for Borrusia Dortmund because of playing time concerns, and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who may or may not be leaving Chelsea for Bayern Munich because of playing time concerns, were not England’s brightest stars on the night — hat-trick hero Raheem Sterling takes that honor easily — but they took their opportunity with the confidence of players much older and more experienced (many of whom are injured at the moment, thus giving the teenagers extra chances). They did not look out of place, as the cliche goes, Sancho for the full 90 and Hudson-Odoi for the final 20, and any greater expectation above that would have created a false dichotomy — they don’t have to be the greatest immediately just to play.
It’s almost as if age shouldn’t be the only determining factor for playing time, a notion that England head coach Gareth Southgate, the former England U21 manager, clearly subscribes to.
That’s not to say that the occasion wasn’t special for the kids, especially for debutant Hudson-Odoi, who’s now achieved firsts in Chelsea starts, Chelsea goals, and England appearances in the last seven months.
“I’m definitely delighted. I want to thank everybody for helping me get here, and to get the opportunity to play today is a massive feeling in front of the home crowd as well. Hopefully there’s many more to come.
“I couldn’t believe it (when I was told to get ready). I didn’t think it was real. I was looking around the crowd and everybody looked happy — I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to do, but I was delighted, and hopefully there’ll be many more to come.”
-Callum Hudson-Odoi; source: Sky
But a first Premier League start is still missing from his CV, and while his playing time has increased markedly since January, there’s still no real indication that his mind about leaving Chelsea has been successfully changed.
So, as much as Hudson-Odoi is just getting started and there’s plenty of future improvement to look forward to, we also have plenty of work to do in ensuring that we’ll get to witness those improvements and that greatness first hand.