Ashley Cole has praised Emile Smith Rowe’s “dedication” and “qualities” as the Arsenal star joins up with the England senior squad for the first time.
The 21-year-old has been in impressive form for the Gunners recently – scoring in his last three Premier League games – and Gareth Southgate ended up bringing the playmaker to the camp for the Three Lions’ clashes with Albania and San Marino following withdrawals elsewhere.
Smith Rowe has been virtually an ever-present figure under Arteta since being introduced into the first team almost 12 months ago and the Hale End academy graduate has flourished under the spotlight.
Now, amid the major decision to call him up to the England squad, former Arsenal defender Cole has lauded Smith Rowe for being one of his old club’s best players so far this season.
Cole told Sky Sports: “He’s one of Arsenal’s biggest and better players this season alone and last season.
“I think his hard work and dedication, and of course qualities, is paid off. He’s got the opportunity now to go up with the senior team and knowing the boy that he is, with that mentality, will not change.
“Very humble kid. Willing to learn and listen. I will keep saying it, willing to develop and trying to be the top player.
“I think it’s well deserved and hopefully we can get a few more from this group going up because they all deserve it.”
Cole’s praise echoes that of Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta. When speaking about the England international after the 3-1 win against Aston Villa last month, Arteta praised Smith Rowe and agrees with Cole on how determined he is to become the best version of himself.
“That should be a habit (getting more goals and assists now) and he should demand that in his game because he’s capable of doing it,” the Arsenal boss said.
“I’m happy he’s developing and he still needs to develop more. I think tonight as well. The other night he wasn’t 100% fit and he stepped forward and Emile wanted to play with a difficult injury that he had, he’s still playing he’s looking forward, he’s really determined. He’s changed the way he’s living a bit and some habits that he had. He was superb.”
Despite his recent form, Smith Rowe did admit on Tuesday that he felt some nerves about joining up with his England team-mates for the first time this week.
He said: “I was really nervous, it is hard coming in as a new player. I play against these guys every week but being with England is different.
“It’s crazy to be wearing the same training kit and passing the ball to these great players. I am speechless.
“After a while, I got used to it but I was definitely nervous. I am sure I will get more comfortable throughout the week. Harry Kane is the captain of England and with what he has done, it is crazy to be training alongside him, Sterling as well.
“In general, everyone really. I knew training here would be tough because everyone is so good. It still hasn’t sunk in and I can’t believe it.”
Smith Rowe will be desperate to pick up his first England senior cap on Friday evening as the Three Lions take on Albania at Wembley, before Southgate’s squad make the trip to San Marino a few days later.
The midfielder will then return to north London to prepare for next weekend’s trip to Anfield to take on Liverpool in the Premier League.
Source by Football London