James Maddison reveals dad’s tears of joy at World Cup 2022 call-up as England ace’s soul-searching pays off

James Maddison reveals dad’s tears of joy at World Cup 2022 call-up as England ace’s soul-searching pays off

James Maddison says he never gave up hope he would play for England again but has admitted he questioned himself during his spell out in the cold.

Maddison was last week rewarded for his superb Leicester form with a surprise call-up to Gareth Southgate's World Cup squad, having not been included since winning his only cap in 2019.

The 25-year-old faces fierce competition for places with the likes of Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Mason Mount in Qatar but only Harry Kane can better Maddison's 24 goal involvements in the top flight in 2022.

The Foxes playmaker says there is no bitterness towards Southgate for ignoring him for so long and insists he always believed he would earn another chance.

“I never felt like it had gone,” Maddison said at England's World Cup training base in Al Wakrah, south of Doha. “There were obviously times where you might feel like you were playing well and weren't selected, which was the case a couple of times.

“But it’s about having the right mindset and staying hungry to achieve and not thinking it’s a closed door.

“I don’t think at any point I thought the opportunity had gone. It was just about almost using the rejection of not getting called up in previous camps as motivation to try and get back in and force my way back in.

“There's no bitterness, I know Gareth’s the England manager and he’s got a lot of talent at his disposal. But just keeping that mindset of staying hungry, scoring, assisting, affecting games and showing I can be an asset for him at this level.

“There was definitely times where you question certain things and [think], 'What am I doing that's not getting me in the England squad?’," Maddison added.

“I think you have to because otherwise it might almost be a little bit arrogant of not improving.

“The pinnacle is playing for England, right? And when you feel like you're playing well, and you might be deserving of a call and you don't get it, you’ve kind of got to tell yourself ‘how can I do better to get in?’ instead of having the arrogance of ‘I should be in’.

“I think I did that and I worked very hard behind the scenes at Leicester on how I can score more, how can I assist more to almost try and force the manager’s hand so he can't leave me out.”

Maddison has been on dazzling form the Foxes, scoring seven times in the first half of the campaign, but he said he admitted he was “preparing for the worst” ahead of last week's big announcement.

“I was kind of braced for both [good and bad news],” he said. “Like hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I hadn’t been in a squad for three years and I’m not naïve.

I had a missed call off Gareth Southgate, so the heart starts beating.

“But I also had that hope, that I was playing, I was in good form, I was in goalscoring form. I’ve been a threat for a little while now on the pitch and was hoping for the good call instead of the bad call. Thankfully I was on the receiving end of a good phone call from Gareth and one that I’ll never forget.

“I was in Brendan [Rodgers'] office having a chat with him about stuff, about the day, and he asked me if I had heard anything, and I hadn’t at that point. We were talking through it.

“He was just being a good man-manager and putting his arm around me if I didn’t get the call and how it would look and how to stay motivated for Saturday’s game and enjoy the break. Went back down to the changing room afterwards and had a missed call off Gareth Southgate, so the heart starts beating.

“I had his number saved still. I went up and called him back, he gave me the good news and it was all a bit of a blur. After the call finished and he told me I was in, it was a big of a head on the wall moment, big deep breath and called my parents.

 (PA)
(PA)

“My Dad actually cried – and he is not a crier! I don’t think I have seen him cry for years! They were happy tears, of course. Your family, your parents… they are on this journey with you.

“When, in previous years, I have been left out of squads and had that disappointment, it is spread across the family. Now it’s the opposite end of the scale with the happiness.

“On the day of the announcement, after training I wanted to go back and see them in Coventry. I had dinner at home with my mum and dad, my little boy and my partner. I wanted to see them.

“That’s a moment I will cherish forever. I wanted to go back and see my mum and give her a big hug. It was a special day for all of us, one I will never forget.”