Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley says he is better equipped to make an impact at international level after earning his first England call-up in two years.
The 24-year-old has been recalled by Gareth Southgate for the Nations League games against Croatia and Spain.
Barkley set up the opener and scored the second in Chelsea’s 3-0 Premier League win at Southampton on Sunday.
“I feel much more mature and I’m ready to show what I’m capable of – which I’ve shown in spells,” he said.
Barkley, who has 22 caps, is in the England squad for the first time since May 2016, having been overlooked by Southgate as he struggled with form and fitness last season.
He did not play for seven months at former club Everton because of a hamstring injury, which needed surgery in August 2017, five months before he joined Chelsea for £15m.
A brief return to action followed his move to Stamford Bridge, only for Barkley not to play under Antonio Conte between 31 January and 13 May.
Barkley, who only played 131 minutes in the Premier League last season, says he has worked hard to regain full fitness and is enjoying the benefits under new boss Maurizio Sarri.
The midfielder’s claims for an England recall were pushed by the Italian manager, who said after Sunday’s game he expected the Liverpool-born player to become “very important for the England national team”.
“Everybody develops at different rates,” Barkley, who made his Everton debut aged 17 in 2011, said.
“I understand my football better now, more than I ever have understood it before. I’m happy, confident and going in the right direction.
“I feel I’m better equipped now. I’ve had expectations on me from a young age and I’ve dealt with them.
“I’ve been through difficult spells but I’m coming out of it a better player. I’ve worked on my weaknesses defensively and worked on my attacking strengths.
“I think I’m becoming a better all-round player.”
Dunk praises ‘role model’ Terry
Uncapped Brighton defender Lewis Dunk says his experience of playing in the lower leagues – he has featured for the club in League One, the Championship and the Premier League – contributed to his development as a player.
“I think now you have got the Under-23s league, but there is nothing like going to League One and having a battle with a man that’s fighting to take his pay cheque every week,” said Dunk, 26, who was drafted into the England squad after an injury to Burnley’s James Tarkowski.
Dunk also praised his boyhood hero John Terry, the former England and Chelsea captain who announced his playing retirement this week.
“I was a Chelsea fan because of him,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.
“Going back to when I was young, I used to love seeing him and how he would throw his body on the line and not care about getting hurt.
“I have moulded myself into that [kind of player] the best I could. He was a great role model to look up to.”
Watford midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah says making his England debut would mean more after coming back from a serious knee injury last season.
The 23-year-old was picked by Southgate for two World Cup qualifiers in August 2017 but did not feature.
A month later he fractured his kneecap and had surgery, missing eight months of the season.
Chalobah has made three appearances for Watford this season and played just four minutes in the Premier League.
Asked if a first senior cap would mean more because of his injury, he replied: “Definitely, because I had that down as my target last year to try to get in the team.
“I knew if I got in the team I wouldn’t play straight away, I had to be patient, then I got injured and I was like ‘ok, we are back to square one now’.
“I have got to start again and try to work my way back into the team. I have always had that in the back of my mind that if I keep my head down, if I keep working hard, then hopefully my chance will come.”
Chalobah has played almost 100 times for England at youth level from under-16s through to under-21s.
“I think it’s ok when everyone says yeah, I have a hundred or so caps at the younger age groups, but I’m more interested in challenging and trying to get that cap for the senior team,” he added.
“Not to say I would play down all my other caps, but it would probably be the highlight of my career, putting on the England shirt and hopefully coming on and getting that first cap.”