Cole Palmer used to pretend to be Wayne Rooney in his garden – but after a whirlwind journey from Man City sub to main man at Chelsea, he’s finally in the frame for Gareth Southgate’s England side
- Since his move to Chelsea this summer, Palmer has looked the genuine article
- Performances have won a deserved promotion to England’s senior squad
- It’s baffling why Guardiola sold Palmer to a rival club – It’s All Kicking Off
A couple of days after the chaos of Stamford Bridge, Cole Palmer sits in the serenity of a large room at St George’s Park in Staffordshire.
Straight out of Wythenshawe, Manchester, Palmer is asked to consider the next stage of a career trajectory on which someone would appear to have pressed fast forward.
‘Yeah, it’s been crazy,’ Palmer says. ‘The changes have happened so fast. From winning the Euros with the Under 21s, to signing for Chelsea, then getting called up here. It’s all happened so fast. I am excited for it all.
‘In the garden as a kid I used to pretend to be loads of players. Rooney, Ronaldo, Messi. All of them. But all this felt a long way away when I was that age.
‘Now I am here I have thought about it and what it may be like to play. When I make my debut it will be an amazing moment for me and my family… if it happens.’
Cole Palmer once dreamed of being Wayne Rooney – and will look to gain his first cap for England as he follows in the player’s footsteps
The Chelsea starlet was a late call-up to Gareth Southgate’s camp following injuries to key squad members
But Palmer’s most recent performance against his former club Man City justified his inclusion
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It will happen, for sure. Palmer’s rise to prominence since his £40million switch from Manchester City to Chelsea in the the summer has been such that an England cap already feels like a logical and inevitable next step.
It was after scoring that 95th-minute penalty to secure a 4-4 draw for his new club against his old one on Sunday that Palmer returned to the dressing room to find a message on his phone telling of his promotion from the Under 21s to Gareth Southgate’s senior squad for the games against Malta at Wembley and North Macedonia in Skopje.
Palmer has been promoted because of withdrawals. But anyone who has watched him play this season will have recognised that he was on his way anyway. Some talent is just too natural, just too easy, to ignore for long.
And that is what strikes you about Palmer when you sit and look at him. It’s not just his youth or his straight-out-of-the-box Manchester accent. It’s the sheer matter-of-factness about a young man who would appear to know exactly where he is headed.
Take, for example, his description of what happened in the wake of Chelsea being awarded their late penalty on Sunday.
‘When I saw the ref give it I thought, “It’s my time”,’ he says. ‘I spoke to Raz (Raheem Sterling) and was like, “I wanna take it”. When I put the ball down I just picked a spot and put it there. I wasn’t nervous, not really. I have always tried to believe in myself.’
Before receiving a promotion to the senior squad, Palmer won the Under-21 Euro 2023 in July
Since signing for Chelsea over the summer, the midfielder has hit the ground running
At Stamford Bridge, Palmer has once again joined up with former team-mate Raheem Sterling
Pep Guardiola’s reasons for sanctioning Palmer’s move to Chelsea will long be discussed. Watching him play for Mauricio Pochettino’s team in London, it is hard to imagine he would not have found his way into the City XI at some stage. During Chelsea’s up-and-down start to the season, Palmer has been consistently their best player.
‘It was a big move for me,’ nods the 21-year-old. ‘I’d never been out of Manchester, not even on loan or anything. So to move down to London on my own was a big thing. When I first went down there it was difficult. I was staying in a hotel but now I have settled in more and I’m enjoying it.
‘It happened fast. I thought for my career I had to go and get regular game time. The competition that’s there at City, it was going to be hard.’
Asked to compare City manager Guardiola and Chelsea boss Pochettino, Palmer is diplomatically dismissive. ‘Next question,’ he shrugs. However he adds: ‘Obviously you know how good a manager Pep is and he gave me the platform to kickstart my career so I’ll always be grateful to him. I saw him after Sunday’s game and he said, “Well done”.
‘Who knows what would have happened if I had stayed. Maybe I would have played more, maybe not. But I think the decision to go to Chelsea is paying off so far.’
The move to west London called time on a 15-year-long stint at his boyhood club Man City (Palmer ringed)
Pep Guardiola’s reasons for sanctioning Palmer’s move will long be discussed – but the player wouldn’t be drawn on the subject of his former manager
Rico Lewis (centre) who grew up with Palmer at Man City was another to receive a late call-up, as was Aston Villa’s Ezri Konsa (right)
The first call Palmer made in the wake of his England selection was to his father Jermaine. After that came a message from his former City clubmate Rico Lewis. Sitting across the corridor in the away dressing room at Stamford Bridge, Lewis had just discovered he was being fast-tracked, too.
‘We were both happy we were coming to the first camp together,’ Palmer says. ‘If you have a friend there it is always that bit nicer. We are both just buzzing. Now I am here I think I will try to talk to as many people as I can.’
Southgate’s England environment is nothing if not inclusive and Palmer and Lewis will be among the beneficiaries of that over the next few days. Whether they actually play or not is harder to gauge. England have already qualified for next summer’s Euros in Germany but must top their group to ensure a helpful seeding.
Palmer has received a number of requests for tickets and his parents will be at Wembley tomorrow, just in case. Whatever happens, he is unlikely to be on penalty duty. A chap called Harry Kane tends to take those. Some things, even for Palmer, will have to wait.
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