Phil Foden thanked England manager Gareth Southgate for keeping faith in him after scoring his first international goals in the 4-0 win against Iceland – two months after “one of the hardest moments of my life”.
Manchester City midfielder Foden, 20, was sent home from Reykjavik along with striker Mason Greenwood in September for an “unacceptable” breach of coronavirus quarantine guidelines after their opening Nations League game against Iceland.
After missing three matches, Foden was recalled this month and scored twice late on in a comfortable Nations League win at Wembley.
“I was just determined to come back and do the best I can,” Foden told Sky Sports.
“[Being sent home] was one of the hardest moments of my life. That’s the time you need the trust of your manager and Gareth had a lot of respect for me and it means everything to me.
“I just wanted to repay him with goals and do well.”
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‘For us it was done’
Midfielders Declan Rice and Mason Mount joined Foden on the scoresheet as England had three players aged 21 or younger score in the same match for the first time since February 1883 against the Republic of Ireland.
Foden also created Rice’s opener in a sparking performance on the right of a front three. The Manchester City player scored 7.56 on the BBC Sport player rater – second only to Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish (7.97).
“You are playing against the best players in the world each game, so I’m just really happy to get the goals,” Foden told BBC Radio 5 live.
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“I won’t ever forget it.”
Southgate praised Foden’s impact after returning to the international set-up
“It’s not easy to walk through the door after the way he left previously,” Southgate said.
“But for us it was done. He’s such an exciting player. It was a big week for him to come back.
“We all make mistakes. It was important for him to feel a clean slate.
“We know what he’s capable of and to get the two goals was a glimpse for everyone for what he is capable of.”
‘We didn’t pick that team for confrontation’
Southgate only made three changes to his side despite qualification for the Nations League finals being off the table, but defended his decision to play his big names.
The England manager pointed to France starting with Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Raphael Varane and Benjamin Pavard against Sweden on Tuesday night despite already being assured of a finals place.
“We are trying to build a team,” he told BBC Radio 5 live. “The bedrock of the team all wanted to play. The captain [Harry Kane] wanted to play, he led that.
“I have total empathy with Premier League managers, this season is so complicated for everybody. We haven’t picked that team for confrontation.
“We played our part by adapting our training, by rotating in the friendly, but we need to compete. We have to make use of every opportunity we have. We are behind France and Portugal and they play their big guns.”