Seven facts you may not know about potential new England cap Michail Antonio following his rise into the Three Lions’ squad.
Former non-League player Antonio earned his first England call-up on Sunday evening when Sam Allardyce revealed his squad to face Slovakia in a World Cup qualifier.
The West Ham man, 26, was the only first-time call-up in Allardyce’s maiden Three Lions squad.
Here, we list seven things you may not have known about the England newcomer.
1. HE WAS PLAYING NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL SEVEN YEARS AGO
Like fellow call-up Jamie Vardy, Antonio once plied his trade in the non-League ranks. He scored on his debut for Tooting & Mitcham United, who were playing at the seventh tier of English football at the time, and he initially returned there on loan after joining Reading. Antonio also has plenty of experience of the lower levels of the Football League having played for the Royals, Cheltenham, Southampton, Colchester, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest.
2. HE SCORED AT WEMBLEY ON HIS 20TH BIRTHDAY
Antonio, then on loan with Southampton from Reading, scored a brilliant half-volley on his Wembley debut as Saints defeated Carlisle 4-1 in the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Future England internationals Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert were both in the Southampton XI that day, as was Portugal’s Euro 2016 winner Jose Fonte.
The photo (above) shows Antonio (l) with fellow scorers Lallana, Ndiaye Papa Waigo and Lambert.
3. HIS CAREER REALLY TOOK OFF AT NOTTINGHAM FOREST TWO YEARS AGO
Antonio had Championship experience with both Reading and Sheffield Wednesday, but it was at Nottingham Forest where he really took the next step in 2014. Although he only spent just over one campaign at The City Ground, Antonio was voted the club’s player of the season in 2014-15 and scored 16 goals and provided 13 assists in 50 games before West Ham moved for him.
4. HE WAS ONCE MISTAKEN AS A MISSING PERSON BY HIS CHAIRMAN
Hammers co-owner David Gold was caught out on social media back in November when he retweeted an appeal for a ‘missing person’ which contained a picture of Antonio, whose acquisition Gold had given the green light to just two months earlier. Gold later deleted the tweet and, at the time, Antonio had only played 30 minutes for his club in a substitute’s cameo at Manchester City.
5. HE TURNED DOWN THE CHANCE TO PLAY FOR JAMAICA
Five months before his maiden England call-up, Antonio revealed he had turned the down the chance to represent Jamaica in the hope of one day winning a cap with the Three Lions. Like fellow Hammers Mark Noble and Aaron Cresswell, he was overlooked for the Euros by Roy Hodgson but has earned the nod in Allardyce’s first squad.
6. HE IS PROLIFIC IN THE AIR
Although he is not even six foot and plays out wide, Antonio has proved to be a constant threat by scoring back-post headers having cut in off the flank to meet crosses. He did just that on Sunday to give West Ham a route back into their game at Manchester City with his eighth headed goal since the start of the 2015-16 season, a total greater than any other player has managed in the same timeframe.
7. HE ENJOYS A CELEBRATORY DANCE AFTER SCORING
Not since Peter Crouch and his robot have England had a player with such fine celebrations in their ranks. Last season, after scoring against Sunderland, Antonio replicated a move cartoon character Homer Simpson pulled out by lying on his side and rotating in a circle and, when he notched the winner against Tottenham four days later, the winger mimicked Carlton Banks’ dance from the television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.