With summer just around the corner, it looks like it’s World Cup time again. Yes, it’s been four years already. Teams from all over the world are preparing their forces for the greatest show on earth. Whilst some of you might be ambivalent about it all, 3.2 billion people will watch the games on their television to find out who will win the Golden Trophy.
Ahead of this, we got some time this week with one of England’s most exciting players Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A 24-year-old, fresh-faced midfielder who recently transferred from Arsenal to Liverpool. We caught up with him ahead of the launch of Nike’s all-new England Collection, where we asked him for his thoughts as the World Cup approaches.
What do you think the hardest thing about developing as a player is? How tough is it when you’re coming up through the ranks before you’re well known?
It’s psychological and physical. You have to make sacrifices to give yourself the chance to get noticed and at a young age it’s all about being given the opportunity to impress when you’re in a youth league. It’s 20 of you looking for that professional contract, there’s not just one of you – there are 20 of you but there’s only room for two or three of you to go and join the first team for training, which is when you can then go and impress.
You constantly need to show that you have that edge and do the best you can in front of whoever is watching. You have to sacrifice different things, parties for example, and at a young age you have to be taking great care of your physical preparation. You have to be ready to step up and when the opportunity comes – for some it takes a long time to come, for others it comes sooner – you just have to take it. You’ll get 2 or 3 chances to play with the first team and if you don’t turn it on then the manager might send you back down and that could be it for you.
So you’re always playing your last game?
Exactly – you have to leave a good impression as football is all about opinions. You need to get over rejection quickly and as soon as you get knocked down, get up, keep believing in yourself and look for your next opportunity.
What are your feelings about heading into the World Cup this year?
It’s hard to think too far ahead, I’ve had a busy Premier League season so I’m focused on that and if I do well then it gives me the best chance to go to the World Cup in my very best form. That has always been a focus, you’ve always got to have one eye on the World Cup.
It’s everyone’s dream, so that’s what I’m working towards. It’s always amazing playing for your club and for England, but when the World Cup comes it’s a whole another level.
When does the mental preparation start for a World Cup? Even before the squad has been announced?
From the first qualifying game two years ago, that’s when you sort of start thinking about it. It’s all about switching on and switching off. When you’re paying for England that’s all you’re focused on but when you’re playing for the club it’s the same.
What’s the first thing going through your mind when you step out into an international match?
It depends where you are and how many fans you have there. It’s just about being as focused as you can. Nerves sometimes get the better of you, but you’re there to do a job and once you get on the pitch it’s business as usual and that’s all you think about.
What are your hopes for the World Cup should you head there?
We always speak about our main focus being going out there, doing the best job we can and making the nation proud. If we can do that, results will reflect our focus and Russia takes care of itself.
Do you have any rituals you have before you head out on the field?
I always take a couple of hops on my left leg. Don’t know why or where that started but I’ve been doing it for a while.
Bringing a modern edge to classic design, Nike’s distinctive 2018 England Collection will be available from nike.com in March. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is wearing the pre-match jersey.