James Maddison reveals his father’s tears of joy during 2022 World Cup call as England ace’s soul-searching pays off

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Ames Maddison says he never gave up hope of playing for England again, but admitted he questioned himself during his time out in the cold.

Maddison was rewarded last week for his superb form at Leicester 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 Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Mason Mount in Qatar, but only Harry Kane can better Maddison’s 24 goals 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 was gone,” Maddison said at England’s World Cup training base in Al Wakrah, south of Doha. “Obviously there were times when you could feel like you were playing well and not being selected, which was the case on a couple of occasions.

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

“I don’t think at any time I thought the opportunity had passed. It was almost about using the rejection of not being called up to previous camps as motivation to try to come back and force my return.

“There is no bitterness, I know Gareth is the England manager and he has a lot of talent at his disposal. But just keeping that mindset of staying hungry, scoring, to help, to affect games and to show that I can be an asset to him at this level.

“There have definitely been times when you question certain things and [think]’What am I doing that doesn’t get me into the England team?'” Maddison added.

“I think you have to because otherwise it could almost be a bit arrogant not to improve.

“The pinnacle is playing for England, right? And when you feel like you’re playing well, and maybe you deserve a call-up and you don’t get it, you kind of have to tell yourself “how can I do better to get in?” instead of having the arrogance of “I should be in”.

“I think I’ve done it and I’ve worked very hard behind the scenes at Leicester to figure out how I can score more, how can I help more to almost try to force the manager’s hand so he can’t don’t leave me out.”

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

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

Got a missed call from Gareth Southgate, so my heart is starting to pound.

“But I also had this 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 I was hoping for the right call instead of the Bad call Luckily I got a good phone call from Gareth and one I will never forget.

“I was in Brendan [Rodgers’] office having talked with him about stuff, the day, and he asked me if I heard anything, and I didn’t hear anything at the time. We were talking through her.

“He was just a good coach and hugged me if I didn’t get the call and what it would look like and how to stay motivated for Saturday’s game and enjoy the break. I then went back down to the locker room and got a missed call from Gareth Southgate, so the heart starts pounding.

“I still had his number saved. I went upstairs and called him back, he told me the good news and everything was a bit of a blur. Once the call ended and he told me I was there, it was a big head moment against the wall, a big deep breath and I called my parents.

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“My dad really cried – and he’s not a crier! I don’t think I’ve seen him cry in years! They were tears of joy, of course. Your family, your parents…they’re on this trip with you.

“When in previous years I was kicked out of teams and had that disappointment, it spread to the whole family. Now it’s the opposite end of the scale with happiness.

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

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


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