Time to go again. A new chapter commences for the England National Team, a fresh start with the failure of EURO 2016 serving as inspiration over disappointment. As England look to rise once more as an international footballing force they'll be entering enemy territory with no nerves in navy.
Nike lean on a new generation of attacking talent to emphasise the refreshed attitude of the Three Lions as Marcus Rashford provides an honest look at his relationship with the England team and the shirt. Wearing the new navy blue England Away Kit, the Manchester United forward talks about the first time he was given and England kit, to following in the footsteps of his hero Wayne Rooney, to the day he scored on his England debut.
Rashford: Growing up in Manchester, my family had a little competition going on. When they were buying me a gift for my birthday or Christmas or whatever, they always bought me the latest football kits. But coming from Manchester, families can be… divided. At least mine was. Half my family were United supporters and half were City. So these were more than gifts, you know what I mean? Especially as I got older and I kept getting better at football, my uncles would buy me the newest red or blue kit to try to bring me over to their side. It was a bit of a running joke in our family.
But there was one kit that I will never forget getting, and it wasn’t United or City. One night, I came home after a kickabout with my brothers out front. My uncle was over and he had something for me. Another red football kit - he was United all the way. I took it from him, looked at it and I saw that this one was different. On the top left of the chest was a crest with three lions and one gold star. My first England shirt. I flipped it over to see if it had a number on the back. 9 And just above that… ROONEY.
I was too young to appreciate the England teams of the ’90s – guys like Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham – so for me, it was all about Rooney. When he and Michael Owen were up front together, those are my earliest memories of the England team. As every kid does, when you’re having a kickabout and you’ve got someone’s name on your back, you just try to follow in their footsteps. I was a striker, so from that day, I wanted to be just like Rooney. And I wanted to play for England.
A lot of people think I’ve come out of nowhere. And to be honest, this past year has gone by so quickly. I still can’t believe it myself sometimes. One day during training with United last season, my teammates told me that I’d been selected for the national team to go Euro 2016, and I literally didn’t believe it. I thought they were joking. I’d only just made my debut for Manchester United a few months before.
Phil Jones came up to me as we headed into the changing rooms and said, “I’m tellin’ ya mate, you’re going to France.” As I made my way into the building, some of the staff were telling me the same thing. When I got my phone out of my locker, there were messages from everyone, all saying the same thing: England!
All the nights leading up to your England debut, you can’t stop trying to imagine what it’s going to be like. You play it through in your head over and over again. You think about the pitch. You think about walking into the changing room. But whatever you expect, it’s never going to be like that. It’s never going to be like how you dreamed. It was so much better than that. I walked into the changing room for our friendly against Australia and saw all the shirts hanging up at each of the lockers. I remember looking around for mine, and then I saw it. Red football top. With a crest on the left chest. Three lions. One gold star. I flipped it around. 9 RASHFORD. I kind of laughed!
Three minutes into my first match, I scored my first England goal. How should I describe that? This is going to be impossible. It’s like … As soon as the ball goes in the back of the net, it’s like something goes off in your head. It’s a moment you hold onto, but at the same time, as soon as you’ve done it once, you just want to do it again and again and again. You crave the feeling. At the start of the second half, I experienced another moment I won’t forget. No. 10 got subbed into the match, and all of a sudden I’m sharing the pitch with Rooney… For England.
I know I’m young – the whole England squad is quite young – but we want to make history in the time we’ve got. We know that when people look back on our team, it’s the trophies people are going to judge us on. So it’s important that we bring pride back to our country. We know that’s what supporters have been waiting for as well. My head’s up. I’m looking forward. And I can’t wait to play away in Germany and then get to Wembley for our first home match, and first World Cup qualifier of the year. As a kid, I never got to watch a match at Wembley. I only saw it on the TV in my mum’s house. Just like I dreamed of playing for England, I dreamed of the day I’d get to play at Wembley. When I got out onto the pitch, I just kept looking down at the grass and thinking, Man, it’s perfect. Every single blade is the same height. This is a long way from the garden outside the council estate.