Jay’s joy at England call-up

Jay Rodriguez with his shirt from his England Under 21 debut against Italy.  A100211/1a

Jay Rodriguez with his shirt from his England Under 21 debut against Italy. A100211/1a

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Clarets striker Jay Rodriguez feels his he can only benefit from his time with the England Under 21 squad in the summer.

The 21-year-old was, on Tuesday, named in the provisional 40-man pool for the European Championship Finals in June, along with on-loan Jack Cork and Nathan Delfouneso, who returned to parent club Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Jay Rodriguez, England

Jay Rodriguez, England

The squad will be trimmed to 23 in the week beginning May 16th to submit to UEFA on June 1st, before Stuart Pearce’s side attend a training camp in Spain, ahead of a final warm-up game against Norway at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday, June 5th.

And whether he makes the final cut or not, Rodriguez believes the experience will only improve him, after a season where he has scored 14 goals and, on Tuesday, won 10 of 15 supporters’ clubs’ Player of the Year awards.

He has strong competition to make the final 23 - the strikers named including full internationals such as £35m man Andy Carroll and Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck, on loan at Sunderland, as well as Delfouneso, Celtic’s Gary Hooper, Freddie Sears of West Ham, Daniel Sturridge, currently on loan at Bolton from Chelsea, Crystal Palace’s James Vaughan, on loan from Everton, and much-vaunted youngster Connor Wickham of Ipswich Town.

But Rodriguez is thrilled to receive the recognition, and anything else is a bonus: “I’m really chuffed. It’s a massive thing to be linked with England.

“Obviously there’s a long way to go because it’s a squad of 23 and they are all great players in there.

“There are massive players in there, like Andy Carroll and Jack Wilshere.

“I won’t expect anything. I can’t. But it’s nice to be linked with it.

“I need to play with players like that. I think it would bring any player on just learning from what they do, how they train and how they play.

“For the experience it would be brilliant.

“I’ve just got my fingers crossed that I’m there.”

Rodriguez made his Under 21 bow in Empoli against Italy in February, but was left out of the last squad to face Denmark and Iceland in March, and he admitted: “I was disappointed, although I didn’t expect to be called up.

“It was just one of those things.

“Obviously there are great players there.”

This call-up erases any disappointment, however, capping a campaign that, on a personal level, could not have been much better: “It would only have been better if we’d have got promotion or into the play-offs. That’s obviously a disappointment.

“Personally, I think I’ve surprised myself.

“I know I’ve still got a lot to work on for next year.”

His goals have stood out, but it is the sheer volume of games he has played that has pleased him most - making 47 appearances in total going into tomorrow’s final game at home to Cardiff (kick-off 12-45 p.m.): “I think I’m more pleased with the amount I’ve played and been involved with the team. It’s my first season of playing regular games.

“Obviously I’m chuffed with my goals and everything else that’s come with it.

“I never expected anything that’s come along this season.

“I knew I had to try to break my way into the team as soon as I could.

“I didn’t realise I was going to play this much and it’s been good. It’s been enjoyable.

“I’ve now got to come back and try to improve again, keep working hard.

“That’s the best way to improve yourself.”

He was taken aback by the number of trophies he collected in the James Hargreaves Stand on Tuesday night, as the fans handed out their awards, and he admitted: “It was a nice surprise.”

But ever modest, he preferred to draw attention to the special award given to coach Terry Pashley for his 20 years with the youth set-up: “The award Pash got is well deserved. He’s a great guy and has brought players through the youth team.”

Rodriguez is one of those, and finds it strange to be a role model for the youngsters aiming to break into the first team: “I think every player tries to look up to someone.

“It’s a little bit weird to think that younger players might look up to me.

“I don’t really think about it that way, but if they do then it’s nice to have that responsibility.”

and Iceland in March, and he admitted: “I was disappointed, although I didn’t expect to be called up.

“It was just one of those things.

“Obviously there are great players there.”

This call-up erases any disappointment, however, capping a campaign that, on a personal level, could not have been much better: “It would only have been better if we’d have got promotion or into the play-offs. That’s obviously a disappointment.

“Personally, I think I’ve surprised myself.

“I know I’ve still got a lot to work on for next year.”

His goals have stood out, but it is the sheer volume of games he has played that has pleased him most - making 47 appearances in total going into tomorrow’s final game at home to Cardiff (kick-off 12-45 p.m.): “I think I’m more pleased with the amount I’ve played and been involved with the team. It’s my first season of playing regular games.

“Obviously I’m chuffed with my goals and everything else that’s come with it.

“I never expected anything that’s come along this season.

“I knew I had to try to break my way into the team as soon as I could.

“I didn’t realise I was going to play this much and it’s been good. It’s been enjoyable.

“I’ve now got to come back and try to improve again, keep working hard.

“That’s the best way to improve yourself.”

He was taken aback by the number of trophies he collected in the James Hargreaves Stand on Tuesday night, as the fans handed out their awards, and he admitted: “It was a nice surprise.”

But ever modest, he preferred to draw attention to the special award given to coach Terry Pashley for his 20 years with the youth set-up: “The award Pash got is well deserved. He’s a great guy and has brought players through the youth team.”

Rodriguez is one of those, and finds it strange to be a role model for the youngsters aiming to break into the first team: “I think every player tries to look up to someone.

“It’s a little bit weird to think that younger players might look up to me.

“I don’t really think about it that way, but if they do then it’s nice to have that responsibility.”