Ben White admits it is “surreal” to be heading to the European Championship with England as he looks to continue to make his mother proud.
The Brighton defender was drafted into England’s 26-man squad to replace the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold.
He made his Three Lions debut off the bench against Austria last week and earned his first start in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Romania.
Manager Gareth Southgate selected White ahead of Ben Godfrey, James Ward-Prowse, Jesse Lingard and Ollie Watkins as the player to step in from the standby list.
Now the 23-year-old will be aiming to feature in the finals, having been surprised by his initial inclusion in Southgate’s plans.
“It’s been very surreal,” he said. “Obviously I didn’t think this was going to be happening, I thought I was going to be somewhere hot in Portugal or somewhere like that.
“It is mind-blowing really, I didn’t really expect any of this to happen and even the first bit being in the 33-man squad was enough for me so to make it to the final squad was unbelievable.
“I got a call from someone at Brighton telling me he was going to call me so just waited for the call, I don’t think I have let it settle in yet – it is something I have never felt before.
“News like that doesn’t usually come around so I was speechless really and it felt amazing.”
White’s journey to international football has not been a straightforward one. Having been released by Southampton as a youngster, he joined Brighton before heading out on loan to Newport and Peterborough to cut his teeth.
He credits his mum with getting him back into the game and she was the first person he told when he got the news of his Euro 2020 call-up.
“No, I don’t think so,” he replied when asked if he considered quitting the game following the early rejection.
“It’s always been my passion and the day that I did get released I spoke to my mum about it and she said like, ‘Do you want to be a footballer?’, I was saying, ‘Yeah’.
“So she got on the phone to different clubs and managers to get me some trials at different places.
“I gave her a ring, straight away (after finding out about being in the squad) and she was crying on the phone again.
“It was obviously an unbelievable moment and unfortunately I didn’t get to share it with them.
“She’s obviously so happy for me and she’s seen how hard I’ve worked, and for it to pay off now is, obviously, all that she wants to see.”
A spell on loan at Leeds saw White catch the eye and, while he believes his development extends further back than his stint at Elland Road, he highlighted former Leeds and England defender Rio Ferdinand as his former favourite.
“I wasn’t made last year,” he added. “I think I’ve worked hard for 10 years and it doesn’t suddenly just come in a year and you’re doing well.
“I had two loans before that and played quite a few games there so I think that’s helped me build and obviously perform at the level that I have.
“Obviously, watching the Premier League every week you can see the different types of players and trying to pick different things out of each player – back in the day I think it was Rio Ferdinand. That was the one for me.”