Fleetwood Town defender James Hill living the dream after England Under-21 call
Fleetwood Town defender James Hill says he is living every boy’s dream after being selected for the England Under-21 squad.
Lee Carsley’s side face the Czech Republic in a European Championship qualifier at Burnley next Thursday, then visit Georgia for a friendly the following Tuesday.
Hill, 19, is a surprise inclusion, having only made his Under-20s bow this season.
His three England U20 appearances include last month’s 5-0 win over the Czechs, in which Hill came off the bench, took the captain’s armband and scored his first international goal.
The Bristol-born Fleetwood academy product said: It’s massive for me and a great honour. It’s so amazing, I’m speechless.
“This is every kid’s dream and I’m making it happen. It’s all surreal.
“The other players in the squad you watch on TV playing for top Premier League clubs and it seems unreal.
“I did myself justice playing for the Under-20s, scoring against the Czech Republic and playing against Paolo Maldini’s son (Daniel) for Italy U20s, which was a really big test. Playing week in, week out has helped me, so I keep striving forward.”
Hill became Town’s youngest first-team player when he appeared in a League Cup tie against Leicester City in August 2018, aged 16. He has become a regular in the side since Simon Grayson took charge, making 13 League One appearances so far this season.
Head coach Grayson said: “It’s what dreams are made of and James fully deserves it.
“When I came to the club he wasn’t in the first team but he was around it, and from day one he wanted to learn and has been a joy to work with.
“They are all Premier League players in the England squad and James has come through a category three academy, but he has earned the right to be among them. This is the road Andy Pilley (owner) wants us to go down, developing young players, and I’m delighted for James.”
However well deserved, Hill admits his selection was a huge surprise. “I was really shocked to get the phone call from Lee Carsley, who said I’d be involved and should be proud.
“He said that he had been to watch me and that I was doing well.”
Hill could feature for Fleetwood in this afternoon’s FA Cup clash with Burton Albion at Highbury before linking up with the England squad on Monday.
However, he was among the Fleetwood players to emerge from Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat by Wigan Athletic with bumps and bruises, and Grayson says he is one whose fitness would be assessed before the first-round tie.
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