PHIL FODEN appeared a little sheepish when coming face to face with Gareth Southgate after reporting for England duty last week.
Little wonder when you consider the previous time the pair met, at a hotel in Reykjavik, Foden had just been caught with his pants down, so to speak.
Yet after being fined by the Icelandic police for breaking lockdown rules, sent home in disgrace and having served an unofficial England ban, Manchester City’s super-talented midfielder is set to start an international for the first time since his debut in Iceland.
Foden was one of the Three Lions’ better performers in the 1-0 Nations League win on September 5 — and he still had enough energy afterwards to entertain two local women in the team hotel along with Mason Greenwood.
The pair were left out of the squad for October’s triple header. And while Greenwood failed to land a recall for this month’s games, Foden returned to the fold and was handed a 29-minute run-out as a replacement for Jack Grealish in last Thursday’s 3-0 friendly win over Ireland.
England manager Southgate held a meeting with Foden when he reported for duty at St George’s Park.
And on Monday, Southgate was filmed having a two-touch kickabout with the 20-year-old and the even younger Jude Bellingham, 17.
Southgate said: “It has been good to have Phil back. He has trained really well and it was good to get him into the game against Ireland.
“Given the players in the squad and the way it has evolved over the week, it will be good to get Phil into the game against Iceland.
“I am sure he has relished the chance to be back with the squad. We know he is a very exciting talent and he is a player who we have a lot of belief in and who Manchester City have a lot of belief in.
“So this could be a good opportunity for him to show everybody what he can do. I made sure we chatted on the first day and put what happened behind us immediately.
“It was done once we had made the decision on the October squad. That was it. From then on it was always going to be a judgment on football.
"I’m sure for anybody walking back in initially that is going to feel a little bit . . . especially when you’re young — but definitely as the week has gone on he has been more relaxed.
“I gave him a bit of a hiding at two-touch yesterday which he was probably a little bit upset about.
“But he’s in with the group, he’s relaxed — and that is what’s important because to be able to play his football properly, that’s where everybody needs to be.”
Emerging as a major talent as he has at City over the past couple of seasons, we might have expected Foden to have made his debut earlier than the game in Iceland — but the reason was his limited game time for Pep Guardiola.
But this season he has started seven games for City, including four in the Premier League, and has chipped in with three goals in all competitions.
Now that he is getting more action, Foden — along with Jack Grealish — has an outside chance of landing a starting spot for next summer’s Euros.
But if that is to happen, Foden must really start impressing for the senior team, starting tonight.
Southgate added: “It’s interesting that at times last year for City he played as a No 8 and most of the time this season he has played higher.
“I think the beauty of the 3-4-3 for Phil, and for Jack as well, is that it gives them some freedom.
“They can roam a bit in that and not be quite as chained to an area of the pitch. Those two No 10s can be more fluid because there is stability behind them. I think that suits both of those players.
“It is great for Phil to be playing and wherever he plays he will play well — he is a good player.
“The specifics of where he is going to end up as he continues to get stronger and more experienced will probably emerge over the next few years. He could play as a No 8 or No 10.
“What has impressed me with Phil in the camps in which we have worked with him is that he has a real hunger to score goals.
“I wasn’t certain we have seen that but talking with Txiki Begiristain, at Man City, it’s an attribute they have recognised as well.
“He has impressed us with that attribute of his game in particular.”
There is no doubt Foden can score on and off the pitch — and now hopefully he can fulfil his potential as a brilliant footballer for this country.
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