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International Eagles: When Hodgson Handed Townsend A Dream Debut

7 July 2018

With the World Cup heating up, we continue our look at Eagles who have starred for their respective nations. With England in quarter-final action today, we reflect on Andros Townsend's first Three Lions cap.

When Roy Hodgson first entered the gates of the Beckenham training ground in September 2017, one man amongst the welcoming committee of Palace players would have been the happiest to see a familiar face.

Some of Andros Townsend’s most impressive and consistent displays as England’s go-to jet-heeled winger came under Hodgson’s watchful eye, when the Eagles boss cajoled untapped potential out of Townsend to help fire the Three Lions through two successive successful qualification campaigns.

During the final three years of Hodgson’s national team stint, at times his protégée looked unstoppable on the world stage, most notably when Townsend enjoyed a dream debut by scoring with a fine 20-yard drive and providing an assist in a man of the match display against Montenegro in October 2013.

Hodgson admitted post-match he had taken a gamble, but was delighted it had paid off: “We agonised over selecting Andros Townsend, we argued back and forth. To leave people like Jack Wilshere and James Milner out wasn’t easy. He made a big impact and he got man of the match. It can’t be easy for a young player making his debut in a game of this nature, but he deserves credit.”

Since then, there have been other moments of triumph for Townsend during the course of his 13 caps to date, including netting in a routine win against San Marino 12 months later and finding an equaliser against Italy. Those goals came during a time when he couldn’t quite replicate his international exploits at club level, and it seemed only Hodgson had the key to unlock the youngster’s potential.

“I owe a hell of a lot to Roy,” Townsend said in an interview with the Palace matchday programme last season. “He gave me my England debut and also my first 10 caps, as well as including me in the squad when I was rarely playing at club level.

 

“I met him for the first time with the under-21s when I was at Queens Park Rangers and playing really well. I bumped into him in the lift and he said that he’d been watching me, I was doing really well and to keep it going. After that, I knew that if I continued the good work then I’d get a senior call-up. The following season he came to watch me in the first or second game of the season and I played really well that day and got called up straight away.

“Ever since then he has given me confidence, even when I haven’t been confident. I remember a specific game against Italy, and after the squad was announced everyone couldn’t believe how I had made it. I had been dragged off after 30 minutes against Manchester United the week before and all the pundits were saying I wasn’t good enough, but he kept supporting me and I owe a lot to him. He’s definitely helped my career.”


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