Aaron Ramsdale says Arsenal’s growing England contingent is proof the club is moving in the right direction.
On the fringes of the squad during the European Championships, the 23-year-old’s quest to become Gareth Southgate’s number one began in earnest last night with a debut against minnows San Marino.
Granted, a solitary save and decisive punched clearance aside, he barely had anything to do, but that didn’t take the shine off a milestone moment as the Three Lions mauled the minnows 6-0*.
That he got to share the pitch with Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, who were both on the scoresheet, was an added bonus.
“I’m delighted for those two,” he told reporters afterwards. “Obviously Emile has two caps now, his first start and first goal and Bukayo scored as well.
“It is a really nice evening for us three lads and the football club as a whole, as a football club we are making strides and we delivered on the international stage tonight and I couldn’t be more proud of those two boys.
He added: “It is a night I won’t forget. A night I have been dreaming of for a long time, it doesn’t matter who we played or what the score was, it was a special day for myself and my family.
“Over the next few days I think I will properly digest it and look back on one the proudest days of my life.”
Having spoken openly about his desire to play at the World Cup in a year’s time, Ramsdale knows he needs to keep building momentum after a fast start to life at the Emirates.
“It has been my goal every time there’s been games coming up,” he said.
“Of course as you get that first taste you want even more but between now and Qatar there is a lot of football to be played – especially at club level and other internationals, so as long as I continue my form with Arsenal then I’m sure I can put something in the manager’s mind.”
Understandably, Smith Rowe was also over the moon after a whirlwind week. A late addition to Southgate’s squad, the 21-year-old now has two caps and a sweetly taken goal to his name. Suddenly a place on the plane to Qatar 2022 doesn’t seem out of reach despite the huge competition for places.
“It’s a target,” he said. “That’s something that I’m going to reach for, but it was great to score tonight and that’s a start.
On his goal he added: “I’m buzzing to be honest, but the main focus was qualifying tonight and we’re happy we done that today.
“I think Bukayo crossed it and Tammy flicked it on and I shouted for him and it was a decent finish to be fair so I’ll take it.
“It’s a bit surreal to be honest, its a shame that my parents were unable to be here see it, but I’m sure they’ll be proud.
“Coming away I’ve learnt a lot and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to play. I’m just going to keep working hard and we’ll see what happens.”
Here’s hoping the good vibes continue through to the weekend when Arsenal face a very stiff test away at Liverpool.
* Four goals deducted due to Harry Kane.