Five minutes into this interview and Ryan Bertrand’s face lights up. Full of pride, he reflects on the night of September 1, 2017.
For the supporters who stormed out of Malta’s National Stadium in Ta’Qali, long before the final whistle, disgusted that England were only winning 1-0, it’s a night they will want to forget.
Not for Bertrand, though. It will be a night he remembers for ever.
Ryan Bertrand’s face lit up when he remembered the night of September 1, 2017
The Southampton defender scored his first goal for England against Malta in Ta’Qali
And the left back said he filled a boyhood dream by scoring for his country that night
So what exactly is it like to score for England? ‘Amazing,’ recalled the Southampton defender. ‘It’s a cliche but it’s every boy’s dream to score for England.’
But there was hardly any time for the left back to absorb the moment. England went on to score two more goals to give the scoreline a more emphatic appearance.
Three days later, he was back on the field helping England secure victory over Slovakia which, barring two calamitous results against Slovenia and Lithuania next month, should book England’s World Cup place in Russia next year.
Such is the life of an England international. On to the next game. Eventually, though, Bertrand had the chance to reflect.
‘When that goal came it was more like relief,’ said the 28-year-old.
Bertrand said the sensation of scoring his first goal for his country ‘felt more like relief’
‘It was a tight game, we needed a goal and needed to put the game to bed. But I definitely made up for it when I got home to my family.
‘We had a really nice moment when we got home. We sat down, digested it. It was a nice moment. It’s surreal when you look back at your journey because no one journey is the same.
‘People focus on the now and think that any certain player has always been a Premier League footballer.
‘Every footballer has their path and it’s amazing to accomplish such things like scoring for your country, it’s the real pinnacle. Unbelievable.’
This coming from the man who famously won the Champions League with Chelsea on his debut in the competition.
That was in 2012 when Chelsea beat Bayern Munich on penalties in Bayern’s own Allianz Arena. Indeed, his decision to leave Stamford Bridge and to sign for Southampton in 2015 raised some eyebrows.
Bertand won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2012 — on his debut in the competition
His decision to leave Stamford Bridge and to sign for Southampton in 2015 raised eyebrows
Why would you leave Chelsea? Bertrand explained it was a decision he had to take for football reasons.
‘I left for myself,’ said Bertrand, speaking at the launch of EA SPORTS FIFA 18.
‘I wanted to feel like a footballer. I didn’t necessarily feel like a footballer at Chelsea. It was emotional in terms of Chelsea being the club I had been at since I was young and taken part in one of their most historic moments. There was the emotional attachment but from a football perspective it was a no-brainer. When I was there, whenever I did get the chance to play I never felt the full support to relax and enjoy my football.
‘The times I did play it was like an audition. And that is never healthy.
‘As a young player coming through you want the club to be stable enough to say, “We trust in you, go out there and play”.
‘You don’t want to make a young player feel on edge. I wanted that consistency — and for people to judge you they need to see you consistently.
The defender left for football reasons – conceding every game at Chelsea ‘felt like an audition’
But he revealed that the Saints have given him a ‘fantastic base’ to progress in the game
‘Southampton has given me a fantastic base in being able to do that and progress.’
Ultimately, Bertrand’s move to the South Coast has been vindicated as he has established himself as one of the Premier League’s most accomplished left backs.
Manchester City and old club Chelsea have both considered a move to sign Bertrand, but Southampton are in no mood to sell at the moment.
And Bertrand can look back at the decision to leave his comfort zone in west London and say it was the right one.
He has started each of England’s previous six matches — that tally is likely to rise to eight during the next international break. Then, of course, there’s the World Cup.
Bertrand, who will face Manchester United at St Mary’s on Saturday, said: ‘The move to Southampton has gone perfectly.
‘I’m not saying I knew it was going to but I was confident in my ability — it’s just that Southampton gave me the opportunity to showcase it. The carrot of the World Cup is massive. You don’t blank it out. You just want to be on that plane. I was part of the Euro 2016 squad. It was disappointing, but I don’t dwell on it.
‘It’s a motivation for us. It was a massive let-down, but looking forward to the World Cup after being part of the last campaign, this team feels ready now. It feels like we are moving forward.’
Ryan Bertrand was speaking at the launch of EA SPORTS FIFA 18, out on September 29th. To pre-order your Deluxe Edition, head to: www.easports.com/uk/fifa/buy/united-kingdom