Cole Palmer believes his meteoric rise to the England team has vindicated his £40m move from Manchester City to Chelsea, but admits his maiden senior call-up was never in his thoughts when he agreed to his summer switch.
Palmer has been a revelation under Mauricio Pochettino, scoring four penalties and providing two assists during eight Premier League appearances since moving to Stamford Bridge.
The 21-year-old will hope to cap a fine start to the season by making his senior debut as England complete their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign at home to Malta and away to North Macedonia this month having already booked their place at next summer’s tournament.
But Palmer revealed he was solely focused on performing regularly for Chelsea when he waved goodbye to his 15-year affiliation with City.
Recalling the days leading up to his big-money move, the forward said: “You know how good a manager Pep [Guardiola] is and he gave me the opportunity and the platform to kick-start my career, so I’ll always be grateful to him.
“Who knows what would have happened had I stayed… maybe I would have played more, maybe not. But the decision to move to Chelsea, so far, is paying off.
“It was a really tough decision, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. But with the competition that’s there, the players they have and those they were going to sign, I made my choice.
“I was speaking to people at Chelsea, and I spoke to my dad, but I really didn’t know what to do. I was thinking about it for a couple of days, near enough every minute of the day. In the end, I felt that for my career I had to leave to get regular game time.
“It was a big move for me as I’d never been out of Manchester. I hadn’t been on loan or anything like that, so to move down here on my own was a big thing. When I arrived, it was difficult as I was staying in a hotel, but I’ve now settled in.
“[Making the England squad] wasn’t a big part of it. I wasn’t even thinking about an England call-up when I first went to Chelsea. I just wanted more of an opportunity to prove myself. Getting called up is just a bonus.
“I got the news straight after the match [against Manchester City]. My phone was going crazy because I’ve got some City fans who are mates and family.
“So, I read it… and then I read it again when it was confirmed. I rang my dad straightaway, and he was with my mum. I told them first.”
Palmer remains humble despite the rapid changes in his life. From winning the Euros with the U21s last summer to signing for Chelsea, and then getting called up for the senior England squad, the player is staying grounded and taking it all in his stride.
With England already qualified, Gareth Southgate will have the chance to experiment and blood youngsters over the coming 10 days.
“I’m going to try to make the biggest impact possible, by creating chances and hopefully scoring,” said Palmer, who credits his father Jermaine as being influential in his journey to becoming a professional footballer.
“I’m new so I will speak to as many people as I can. I will try to get settled quickly. I already know the City boys – Walks [Kyle Walker], Jack [Grealish], Phil [Foden].
“I’ve played with Rico [Lewis] for ages. After the game [against City] he asked me if I’d got the same message. We were both happy to be going to the first camp together.
“If you have a friend there, it’s always a bit nicer. So we’re both buzzing.”
Palmer: I can see how Poch helps young players
Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips will meet up later this week owing to personal matters.
The withdrawals of Jude Bellingham and Levi Colwill follow in the wake of James Maddison, Callum Wilson and Lewis Dunk being replaced on Monday, with the trio all staying with their respective clubs for treatment.
Ezri Konsa joins Palmer and Lewis in stepping in but Southgate has resisted any temptation to bring in any other players to replace Bellingham and Colwill, leaving him with a 23-man squad for the home game against Malta and the trip to North Macedonia.
“I’d love to go to the Euros, but I’ve got to play well at club level first,” added Palmer, who said he was surprised that Raheem Sterling wasn’t part of the squad citing their natural chemistry.
“All the attackers are amazing players so there’s a lot of competition.
“Hopefully, I can show what I can do. I spoke to Mauricio (Pochettino) before I joined and it was a good phone call. A lot of people told me about what he’s like with young players, and ever since I went to Chelsea I can see it. I’m enjoying working with him.
“I’m excited to carry it on. He’s given me the confidence and the licence to go where I want on the pitch. To use my strengths, so I’m grateful for it. I like to play in all the positions to be fair. On the right, as a false nine, in the middle.
“Wherever he puts me, I’m happy to play there. It’s a big step up from the youth team given the players that are here, but it’s easier as we’re trying to produce the same style throughout the age groups.”
England are already assured on their place at next summer’s Euro 2024 finals in Germany but Southgate will now target being a top seed when the draw is made in Hamburg next month – so victory in both games remains a key target.