Townsend fired up to make the most of surprise England opportunity
Newcastle winger Andros Townsend has gone from traipsing to Southport and Chester with Tottenham's reserves to the brink of Euro 2016 in six months.
And it has made him all the more determined to grab his unlikely England chance.
Until January the man that helped shoot the Three Lions to the World Cup finals in Brazil was on the periphery at club level, never mind with his country.
A high-profile spat with Spurs’ fitness coach in November led Townsend to be frozen out by Mauricio Pochettino, meaning most of his time was spent with their under-21s before the £12million move to the Magpies in January.
The winger has looked revitalised at St James’s Park and, while understandably disappointed about the Magpies’ relegation, his form earned a timely recall from Roy Hodgson.
Townsend was part of the 26-man provisional squad named on Monday and is determined to make the most of the opportunity to prove his worth before the squad is cut to 23 for Euro 2016.
“It was no secret that I wasn’t playing enough football and my confidence was low,” he said.
“I needed to get back playing week-in, week-out. I knew if I got back to my best I could get in the England squad.
“On a personal level it’s worked out, but it’s a shame I couldn’t help Newcastle stay in the Premier League.
“I always had the belief that my quality would shine through and I’d get back to where I wanted to be. But it was difficult.
“When you’re going to Chester on a Monday night to play against Liverpool Under-21s you don’t see yourself making the England squad for the Euros six months later.
“I didn’t foresee it, but had enough faith in my ability to know that if I got the chance to play regularly I’d get my form back.”
Turning out for the under-21s as Spurs soared up the Premier League was a low moment, but now Townsend is making the most of getting things back on track.
“I’m just warming up and getting into my stride,” said the winger, who netted four goals in 13 appearances for the Magpies.
“I’m feeling great and am disappointed the season ended when it did. Hopefully I can extend the season a lot more.”
Hodgson’s clear faith in the winger makes that a realistic aim, with the England boss often calling on him even when out of the side at Spurs.
Rafael Benitez appears to have similar belief in Townsend, helping him flourish during the pair’s short time together at Newcastle.
“He’s been great with me,” the winger said of his club manager.
“When he walked through the door I was struggling with an injury, but he said, ‘I know you’ve got an injury, I’m not going to rush you, I’m going to help you get back to your best’.
“In the last few weeks I’ve been close to my best. It’s not for me to talk about whether he stays.
“Hopefully whatever happens will be sorted pretty soon, but I’m just focused on working hard with England and trying to make the final 23.”
Townsend is hoping to get a chance to prove his worth in Sunday’s friendly against Turkey, having won the last of his 10 caps in October.
The 24-year-old would have undoubtedly had more was it not for an ankle injury in the build-up to a World Cup for which he was so key in helping England qualify.
Injuries to the likes of Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain make Townsend the beneficiary this time around.
“Missing the World Cup through injury was the lowest point in my career and now I’ve got the chance to put that to rest and go to a major tournament,” he said.
“It’s in my hands. It’s down to me over the next two weeks to cement my place in the team and I’m going to do my best to do that.”