Winter sun will have to wait for Ezri Konsa as he looks to take England chance

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Ezri Konsa had to scrap plans for a winter getaway after his late call-up but the Aston Villa defender always believed it was a case of when rather than if his England chance would come.

The talented 26-year-old has long been tipped for a senior call-up, only to once again miss out on a maiden call-up when the squad for the final Euro 2024 qualifiers was announced last Thursday.

But an injury to Lewis Dunk opened up a last-minute spot in Gareth Southgate’s set-up, leading to a surprise phone call after Villa’s 3-1 victory against Fulham at the weekend.

“I was literally driving home after my game on Sunday,” Konsa said. “Me and the missus were talking about having a little break, going away.

“Two minutes later I ended up getting the call. It was a weird feeling. It didn’t really sink in until I got home.

“The missus was crying a bit, she was more excited than me! I’d rather be here anyway (than on holiday), so it’s fine.”

It has certainly been a whirlwind few days for a player whose belief has never wavered despite much-mooted England opportunities failing to materialise break after break.

“It is a proud moment for me and my family,” said Konsa, who was part of England’s 2017 Under-20 World Cup win.

“It is a dream come true, ever since I was a little kid I wanted to play for England so I’m just grateful for the opportunity.

“I knew I had a lot to work on in my game, only recently in the last two seasons we have excelled at Villa and that part of it has helped me become the player I am today.

“I knew my time would come. It was just a matter of when. I was patient and, as I said, me and my family are really happy.

“I always believe in myself and always back myself and I am really enjoying my football now.”

From Charlton to Brentford and on to Villa, the defender has stepped up when he has needed to and is ready to do the same with England.

Konsa could make his debut in the final Euro 2024 qualifiers at home to Malta or away in North Macedonia, giving him the chance to stake his claim for next year’s finals.

“Yeah of course that is every player’s target to want to go to a major tournament and play for your country,” he said.

“That is definitely on my list and definitely something that I am planning on doing.”

Winning a cap is his first focus as Konsa looks to follow a star-studded group of graduates from Senrab – the well-known east London youth team, where coach Tony Caroll revealed he was nicknamed ‘Little Rio’.

Konsa says Rio Ferdinand was one of the players he idolised, as was John Terry – a fellow ex-Senrab player that he loved growing up and learned a lot from during his time as Villa coach.

“I worked with him for two years and he really helped my game,” Konsa said of “legend” Terry.

“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.

“I took that on and it has definitely helped me get to where I am today.

“Yes, he was in touch and he sent me a nice message.

“He just said ‘congratulations’ and that I needed to enjoy it and be myself.”

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