Express & Star

Ezri Konsa: I knew I would get the ultimate reward

Ezri Konsa was always confident his England chance would come.

England's Ezri Konsa and Harry Kane

The Villa defender, who won the Under-20 World Cup in 2017 and also played for England Under-21s, has been brought into the senior set-up for the first time at the age of 26 for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta on Friday and North Macedonia next Monday.

Konsa was a late call-up alongside Cole Palmer and Rico Lewis on Sunday, after James Maddison, Lewis Dunk and Callum Wilson withdrew due to injury.

He told a press conference yesterday: “I knew I had a lot to work on in my game. Only recently now, the last two seasons, we’ve excelled at Villa and that part of it has helped me become the player I am today.

“I knew my time would come, but it was just a matter of when. I was patient, and I’m proud and me and my family are really happy. I’ve always believed in myself, always backed myself. I’m really enjoying my football now at the moment and the rest is taking care of itself.”

Asked if he saw the Euros as a realistic target, Konsa said: “I think that’s every player’s target, to go to major tournaments and play for your country. So that’s definitely on my mind and definitely something I plan on doing.”

Konsa – who described talk in the past of him potentially switching allegiance to Portugal as “just rumours” – has been congratulated in a message on Instagram on his call-up by former England captain John Terry.

Terry, who worked with Konsa when a coach at Villa, wrote: “Congratulations @ezrikonsa. So happy for you mate, you have been excellent and so consistent over the last three years and fully deserve this. Enjoy it Ez… Just the start.”

And Konsa said: “It means a lot coming from a legend like John Terry. I worked with him for two years and he really helped my game. I used to ask him a lot of questions on how he was able to maintain playing at such a high level, and he gave me a lot of advice and I definitely took that on and it’s helped me become the player I am.

“He was in touch with me, sent me a nice little message. He just said congratulations, that I need to enjoy it and be myself.”

On the moment he received notification that Gareth Southgate had called him up, Konsa said: “I was driving home from the match on Sunday (Villa’s 3-1 win against Fulham) and me and the missus were talking about having a little break, going away – and then two minutes later I ended up getting the call!

“It was a weird feeling, it didn’t really sink in until I got home. I think my missus was crying a little bit, she was more excited that me. I’d rather be here anyway, so it’s fine.”

Midfielder Jude Bellingham and defender Levi Colwill are the latest pair to withdraw from the squad after they sat out games for Real Madrid and Chelsea respectively over the weekend with shoulder problems.

Southgate has resisted any temptation to bring in any other players to replace Bellingham and Colwill, leaving him with a 23-man squad for the home game against Malta and the trip to North Macedonia. England are already assured on their place at next summer’s Euro 2024 finals in Germany but Southgate wants to be a top seed when the draw is made in Hamburg next month so victory in both games remains a key target.

Meanwhile, LaLiga president Javier Tebas says Black Country boy Bellingham is from a “different planet” and hailed the England midfielder’s impact on the Spanish league.

Bellingham has made a stunning start to life at Real Madrid following his summer switch from Borussia Dortmund, scoring 13 goals in his first 14 games in all competitions. Tebas admits people are surprised by how good Bellingham is and it is too early to estimate just how important he will be for the Spanish league from a commercial perspective.

“It’s only been a few months, it’s too soon to know the full extent, but in the viewing levels in the UK Bellingham is having a big impact in our league,” Tebas said. “He’s an important player and the United Kingdom and other English-speaking areas are attracted to our league because of him.

“Bellingham is a top player, we knew he was a great player, but we didn’t realise the level he could reach, at Real Madrid it’s like he’s from a different planet.

“I’m sure he’ll stay for a few more seasons.”