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Eberechi Eze determined to take Euro 2024 chance after cruel Achilles injury

Eze felt more emotional shock than physical pain after the horror injury.

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Eberechi Eze’s England career has gone full circle, with the Crystal Palace star looking to light up Euro 2024 three years on from an Achilles injury extinguishing his hopes of going to the last edition.

The 25-year-old has taken the path less travelled to the top, requiring resilience to bounce back from being released as a youth player by Arsenal, Fulham, Reading and then Millwall.

Eze got another chance aged 18 at Championship outfit QPR, where he flourished following a successful loan at Wycombe and went onto earn a move to Crystal Palace in 2020.

A fine first season in the Premier League put him on the cusp of a first England call-up, but he had to watch the Euros in a cast from afar having sustained a bad injury at the cruellest time.

Eberechi Eze has shone since joining Crystal Palace four years ago
Eberechi Eze has shone since joining Crystal Palace four years ago (Nick Potts/PA)

“I got a provisional text, so they sort of send you that message before they select the team,” Eze said.

“It was obviously my first time getting that message, but this is after my Achilles had been ruptured on the training pitch.

“I’d gone inside, checked my phone and saw the message, so it was a tough day but, again, it’s part of the journey, part of the story, and grateful to be here now.”

Eze felt more emotional shock than physical pain after the horror injury, saying he had turned around to see who had kicked him only to realise nobody was there.

The Palace player says he used Artur Dalaloyan as an inspiration during recovery after the gymnast managed to win an Olympic gold three months after tearing an Achilles in April 2021.

In the end it took Eze around six months to return from his “complete rupture”, but stayed positive and took heart from the fact he was so close to a maiden England call-up.

He felt like “it’s just a matter of time” until he got his chance and so it proved, winning the first of four caps in June 2023 and going on to now be named in a first major tournament squad.

“I try my best to let go of stuff that has happened before, try not to focus too much on it,” Eze said at the team’s Blankenhain Castle media centre.

England’s Eberechi Eze playing pool during Thursday's media day
England’s Eberechi Eze playing pool during Thursday’s media day (Adam Davy/PA)

“When I got the text this time it was just gratitude. Just being grateful to be in this position now because I know so many people who would love to be here as well.

“Every opportunity I get I’m determined to take it. That was the main emotion for me.”

Eze said there was no sense of exorcising demons with his call-up to this Euros, where his skillset could make him a huge threat from the bench should he, as expected, start the tournament there.

Southgate has not spoken about the importance of substitutes yet but the attacking midfielder said: “He spoke about finishers.

“We call them finishers, we know that. The players that come onto the pitch, there is a mentality about it, there’s a way to go about it. There’s importance in that role. It’s not just about the 11.”

Eze’s selflessness stretches far beyond the football pitch through The Eze Foundation.

“I’m grateful to be in the position I’m in, terribly blessed,” he said. “I look at all the people coming from similar areas to me, similar difficulties and struggles.

“Me and my family are trying to do whatever we can to give them an opportunity, help them see things they wouldn’t see otherwise.

“It’s a huge blessing and a huge honour to be in the position to do this and that’s the most important thing. If you’re in the position and you’ve got the opportunity to do it, that’s the best you can do.”

Gratitude is a theme that frequently crops up when speaking to Eze, who says “you fail more than you succeed” and believes has benefited from the bumps in the road he has dealt with.

“I say I’m grateful that all those things did happen because I feel like that’s given me the strength, the character, the mindset to focus on what it is that I believe in and stay focused on that,” he added.

“Not to think too much about other people’s opinions and I feel like as long as you apply yourself in the craft that you’ve got, anything’s possible.”

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