Tuesday 27 September 2016

Danny Drinkwater's England dreams set to become a reality

Published 23/03/2016 | 22:36

Leicester's Danny Drinkwater, right, has been called into the senior England squad for the first time
Leicester's Danny Drinkwater, right, has been called into the senior England squad for the first time

Danny Drinkwater's exceptional campaign means Leicester's "puppet master" will this week make his England debut - recognition the midfielder had all but given up on when boyhood club Manchester United let him go.

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A graduate of the club's fabled academy, the highly-rated midfielder spent time on loan at Huddersfield, Cardiff, Watford and Barnsley before the Old Trafford giants decided to cut ties without so much as a first-team appearance.

Drinkwater ranks the moment he found out United had accepted Leicester's offer as one of the lowest of his career, but that move in January 2012 has gone better than anyone could have imagined.

While his former team desperately scramble around trying to reach the top four, the 26-year-old is leading the Foxes in the most unlikely of title charges and is now looking forward to his England debut.

Roy Hodgson confirmed the midfielder will feature in one of the upcoming friendlies against Germany and Holland, if not both - news Drinkwater was unaware of as his rapid ascent starts an exciting new chapter.

Asked if he thought he would ever get to his point, he said: "Well, no not really to be honest.

"But now I am, I am more than happy. It is a total honour and I am looking forward to it.

"I wasn't really focusing on this as a target. It has just sort of happened which is massive.

"It is absolutely huge and it just highlights what type of a season it has been.

"You hear little things here and there but I was kind of focusing on club football. It has just kind of happened and I am over the moon."

Leicester team-mate Jamie Vardy's progress to the national team paved the way for Drinkwater and acted as inspiration.

The pair's strong bond was clear as they sat alongside one another at St George's Park, where the forward described Drinkwater as Leicester's "puppet master".

Vardy says the midfielder "holds all the strings and makes sure he pulls everyone into the right places" at Leicester, where last term he struggled to even break into the team.

"A lot of hard work has gone into getting where I am now and the whole team is doing well," Drinkwater said of this season's improvements.

"I guess when the whole team is doing well and you are at the top people take note of what you are doing. I haven't changed as a player.

"I am not doing anything massively different. I just think it is being watched a lot more. I don't know the answer, really. It is just all coming together at the right time.

"If it is down to confidence, then that is quite high at the minute. I am playing probably the best football I have played. If it is down to confidence, whatever it is it is working."

Drinkwater's confidence had to be rebuilt somewhat after his pathway was blocked at United - a similar scenario to the one Danny Welbeck found himself in, albeit the forward moved to Arsenal instead of dropping out of the Premier League.

The pair were in the United youth ranks together and could now line-up alongside one another in an England shirt.

"In the back of my mind I thought it was probably half-gone, but I have worked hard," former England Under-19 international Drinkwater said of his dreams of top-level success.

"I have got into a team where everything ticks, everything works well. It is a good club and it was always going to move forward.

"It was never 'could I get back up to that stage?' It was 'get your head down, work hard and see what happens' really.

"You can always have self-belief but leaving a club like United was huge, but look where we are now."

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