Thirteen months ago Aaron Wan-Bissaka was asking Roy Hodgson if he could leave Crystal Palace on loan in search of game time after accumulating several years of experience in the youth side with no immediate prospects of playing for the first team. Now, he playing his way to a first England cap.
Hodgson knew there was talent in the shy winger and instead promoted him to the senior side to quench his thirst for greater involvement. Injuries hit the Palace defence and Wan-Bissaka suddenly made his Premier League debut aged 20 against Tottenham before impressing against Manchester United and Chelsea in the following matches.
The full-back, who spent his youth career playing in a more advanced role than the one he regularly does for the first team, displays all the attacking intelligence and fearlessness that Gareth Southgate demands from his players.
Those that get to watch him regularly and know him beyond their Fantasy Football teams will feel he is certainly a player that Southgate should consider, and the statistics back this up. Only a handful of opponents have found their way past him, and as for his attacking play, he has completed over 40 successful take-ons and has been hugely influential in the final third.
As England’s first set of 2020 European Championship qualifier approaches, Southgate will weigh up whether Wan-Bissaka is ready to be part of his plans in March, and former England manager Hodgson is ready to advise him on south London’s latest potential international star.
“I’ll tell him what I think of the player. I’ll give him my honest opinion because it’s something he deserves to hear,” said Hodgson following Palace’s 1-1 draw against West Ham.
Like most Premier League managers, Hodgson is in contact with Southgate about his players but is yet to be specially asked about Wan-Bissaka by the England manager.
“At the moment he [Southgate] hasn’t done that. We’ve quite often talked about the English players that we have, and it has been on general terms. I’ll wait for that moment when the day comes and he actually says ‘right, I really want your serious opinion about Bissaka and how good he can possibly be at full senior international level’, and I’ll tell him what I think.”
Hodgson is well aware of the pressure on England managers to select the right squad and will not burden Southgate with claims that his player should be in the next national team.
“I don’t do that, you see. The fact is what coaches should not do is to give their opinion and start pushing their players for international places.
“If he ever does want to hear my honest opinion on the player, then I’ll certainly be happy to give it to him. I won’t be contacting him to give him an opinion and I’m certainly not making any claims for anybody, Bissaka or anyone else for an England place. I leave that totally and utterly up to the England coach.”
Wan Bissaka played for DR Congo as a forward in an Under-17 friendly match at St George’s Park before representing England at Under-21 level in September but has not made a decision on which country to represent.
His rise has seen him linked with moves to bigger clubs and tipped to win accolades like the Young Player of the Year Award, but, in keeping with his humble outlook, Wan-Bissaka shrugged off the thought of such titles.
“My aim is just to perform well and see where it gets me with these awards. My aim is just to continue doing what I am doing and seeing where it gets us.”
The ease at which he has contained the best players in the Premier League combined with his bold forward play means that there is no doubting that he will eventually move on from Palace, and it should not be too long before Southagate begins to seriously consider him too.