Close friends Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jadon Sancho have risen together from England’s under-16s to the senior team… but will the next stage of their intertwined careers see them shine in Germany’s Bundesliga?
- Chelsea forward Callum Hudson-Odoi has been called into the England squad
- 18-year-old will hope for a senior debut against Czech Republic or Montenegro
- He was greeted upon arrival at St George’s Park by close friend Jadon Sancho
- The pair have played together many times for England’s youth ranks
- Borussia Dortmund star Sancho has advised Hudson-Odoi on the Bundesliga
- Chelsea starlet has been linked with a move to German club Bayern Munich
Picture the scene. The bright Friday night lights of Wembley twinkling and a sold-out crowd on their feet to applaud as Gareth Southgate makes a late double substitution.
On the touchline, two close friends glance at one another and smile as they try and absorb the moment. The stadium announcer reads the names Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jadon Sancho and a ripple of excitement spreads around the stadium.
Moments later, this thrilling glimpse into the future are linking up in England’s attack, trying to tear through the Czech defence in search of goals.
Jadon Sancho (right) greets Callum Hudson-Odoi at St George’s Park on Monday following the Chelsea forward’s call-up into the England senior squad for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers
Hudson-Odoi was en route to link up with the England under-21 squad in Bristol when he was told the news of his first senior call-up by coach Aidy Boothroyd and rediverted
With Chelsea forward Hudson-Odoi, 18, receiving a maiden call-up into England’s senior squad on Monday, there’s a chance he could line up alongside Borussia Dortmund starlet Sancho, also 18, in Friday’s opening Euro 2020 qualifier.
It would be just further evidence that the careers of two of England’s brightest talents are intertwined.
A near-90,000 crowd at Wembley would represent a far cry from the first time they appeared together in the colours of England.
That was on February 21, 2016, when on a chilly Sunday afternoon at St George’s Park – England’s Staffordshire training base – they played for the under-16 team against Italy in front of just a few dozen spectators, mainly coaches and family.
And only then it was for just 15 minutes. Sancho came on in the 26th minute for his then-Manchester City colleague Phil Foden. Hudson-Odoi, who started on the left-side of England’s attack, came off on 41 minutes for Nya Kirby.
Close friends Hudson-Odoi and Sancho work out together in the gym at St George’s Park
Meeting up for the first time in 2019! Check out all of the best moments as the #ThreeLions arrived at @StGeorgesPark yesterday.
👉 https://t.co/bmZZEp3Evu 👈 pic.twitter.com/gfixcZzaZj
The pair rose through the England youth ranks together. Hudson-Odoi (bottom row centre) and Sancho (bottom row right) line up for an under-16 game with Czech Republic in 2016
Nonetheless, it was the start of their journey together, all the way through England’s youth ranks and now to the first-team.
As well as an understanding on the field, the pair struck up a friendship off it as well, something that became apparent back in January when Sancho revealed he’d advised Hudson-Odoi on a potential move to Germany.
In this, of course, Sancho has become something of a trailblazer. He made the decision to leave City and join Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2017, following a path abroad rarely trodden by young English players.
The £8million Dortmund paid for him already looks like the bargain of the century. Sancho has set the Bundesliga alight this season, scoring nine goals in all competitions, contributing 17 assists and filling highlights reels with his outrageous trickery.
Swaggering Sancho has shown there is an escape route for exceedingly talented English players struggling to find a way through the bottleneck of big club academies and gain that precious first-team game time.
Sancho (left) and Hudson-Odoi (right) first appeared on a pitch together in England colours for the under-16 team against Italy in February 2016
Hudson-Odoi (third right) looks on as Sancho celebrates a goal against Ukraine at the Under-17 European Championship in 2017
People like Hudson-Odoi, who has played just 119 minutes of Premier League football this season for Chelsea and seems to only get a game in the Europa League despite regularly scoring when given a chance.
There was serious interest from Bayern Munich and a £35m bid in January, but Chelsea understandably want to keep hold of one of the best talents to emerge from their academy in years.
‘Me and Callum are close friends,’ said Sancho from Dortmund’s winter training camp in Marbella back in January. ‘We’ve played with each other at England.
‘He’s the next one [off the conveyor belt of talent] I would say. He’s very good, very talented, fast and good dribbling skills.
‘I have told him the Bundesliga is a nice league. I just told him to do whatever is best for him and whatever makes him feel comfortable.’
(Left to right) Hudson-Odoi, Angel Gomes, Jonathan Panzo and Sancho dance during an under-17 training session in Romania in 2016
England line up to play Norway at the Under-17 European Championship in 2017. (Front row, left to right) Timothy Eyoma, Tashan Oakley-Boothe, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Phil Foden, George McEachran, Jadon Sancho. (Back row, left to right) Jonathan Panzo, Rhian Brewster, Josef Bursik, Lewis Gibson, Marc Guehi
With Bayern’s interest unlikely to fade away, their chats must have given Hudson-Odoi plenty of food for thought.
Given Sancho’s warm greeting for Hudson-Odoi when he reported for first-team duty at St George’s Park on Monday, having been diverted from Bristol, where the under-21s are set to play Poland on Thursday, no doubt there will more chats this week.
It was in England’s under-17 team that the pair blossomed. They both featured prominently in the side that reached the final of the 2017 Under-17 European Championship in Croatia.
After scoring five goals and contributing five assists, Sancho was named Player of the Tournament by UEFA, while Hudson-Odoi made the Team of the Tournament after scoring three goals of his own.
One of those came in the final with Spain, where England were seconds away from glory before conceding in the sixth minute of stoppage time and then losing on penalties.
But success would come at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in India later that year. Sancho scored twice in the group stages but was then recalled by Dortmund in order to make his Bundesliga debut.
Sancho celebrates scoring for Borussia Dortmund against Bayer Leverkusen last month
Hudson-Odoi scores for Chelsea against Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League last week
Hudson-Odoi played in all seven of England’s matches and created two goals in the final, where revenge was gained on Spain with a stunning fightback from two goals down to win 5-2.
Since then, progress has been rapid for both. Sancho skipped England’s under-18s, played twice for the under-19s and then was fast tracked to the seniors off the back of his Dortmund form last October.
He has since played for Southgate’s side against Croatia home and away in the UEFA Nations League off the bench and started the friendly with the United States.
Hudson-Odoi had been due for a bow in the under-21s this week but has climbed another rung to the senior team and will hope for a debut against either the Czechs on Friday or Montenegro next Monday.
The pair found themselves on opposite teams several times during their youth careers, notably the 2017 FA Youth Cup final between Chelsea and City.
It was Hudson-Odoi that prevailed on that occasion, scoring in Chelsea’s 5-1 second leg win, while Sancho failed to make an impression.
But it’s clear from their England careers so far that these two are better working together and, who knows, we could see plenty of it for the national team in the years to come.
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