Aaron Ramsdale says Bukayo Saka is a better player and “more complete character” for his penalty miss in the final of Euro 2020 as he backed his Arsenal teammate to “thrive” for England at the World Cup.
Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford each missed in shootout defeat to Italy as England suffered heartbreak at Wembley two summers ago, and all three were targeted with racist abuse in the aftermath.
Asked how Saka had handled the fallout, Ramsdale, who was part of the Euros squad, said: “I'm trying to find the right words... ‘impeccably’, probably.
”The kid’s a lovely boy, he has time for everyone, works super hard throughout every week. Very, very rarely misses a training session and used all that motivation of criticism. But also more so the love that everyone gave him, gave him an extra boost.
“Don’t forget he had the pressure of the whole football club on him last year — him and Emile Smith Rowe were our main guys — and he has dealt with that, he’s dealt with everything else. He is thriving and I can’t wait to see him thrive over here.
“Absolutely, there is no doubt [he's stronger] for that, off the pitch and on it. He’s a more complete person.”
Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal manager, has said the squad helped Saka through the situation and Ramsdale, who joined the club that same summer, revealed he used the pain of being relegated with Sheffield United to support his new teammate.
“[My role was] more through the criticism side," Ramsdale said. “That was probably the first time he'd received it.
“I got relegated and signing for Arsenal was a difficult period so I was able to talk him through that and also when we missed out on the top four he felt like it was all his fault because he couldn’t provide for us. I was just able to reflect that the season before they finished eighth, this season we finished fifth, and if we go another step again we will be in the top four.
“It’s that perspective of: it’s a game of football and there’s a lot more to it.
“These tough moments, where certain people have a different outlook and I’ve been able to see from the other side," Ramsdale added.
“It’s a game of football, so I’ve been able to live my life as well. If I was too emotionally involved with the football, I’d have struggled to mentally carry on, so it’s something I really needed. I wouldn’t have liked for [relegation] to happen twice, but it did, but I’m sitting here and I have that strong backbone which, fundamentally, is my base.”
Ramsdale was included in that Euros squad after an injury to Dean Henderson but he goes to Qatar in magnificent form, having kept seven clean sheets for table-topping Arsenal in the first half of the campaign.
Jordan Pickford was handed the No1 shirt and is expected to keep his place between the sticks during the tournament, with Ramsdale and Newcastle’s Nick Pope ready to step in if needed.
“You definitely feel like I’ve cemented myself into the squad at this moment in time,” he said. “Obviously that can get taken away as quickly as I got it. But at this World Cup I do feel like a strong member of the squad.
“You need all three of us [goalkeepers] to train properly to get the number one to his best. We’re all training like a number one at the minute and then it will be difficult for two of us to flip the switch and help, but it’s something that me and Popey, a little bit less Popey, but me and Jordan have done before.
“So whoever gets that first game will have full support from the group and then you never know with tournament football and you just have to be ready if called upon.”