Nottingham Forest defender Joe Worrall admits there’s not just a sense of pride he feels when he represents his country.
“You think, ‘flippin heck, he’s decent, I’m not as good as I thought I was’,” he grins.
England is a “different animal”, according to the Reds centre-back.
Worrall made his Under-21s debut for the Young Lions last month, marking it with a clean sheet as Andorra were beaten 1-0. And, along with Forest team-mate Kieran Dowell, he has been called up for Friday’s European Championships qualifier against Ukraine in Kiev.
He had already made an impact on the international stage, captaining a mixed age group side to success at the Toulon Tournament in the summer. But the jump in age groups is another level again.
“It was a massive step up. You’re training with top Premier League players who aren’t just in the academies or youth teams, they’re playing week in, week out for Premier League teams,” Worrall said of his Under-21s experience.
“They’re different animals. The pace, the power, the thought; it’s that step up in quality.
“It will help me as a player. Hopefully I’ll come back to Forest and it will rub off on a few of our lads!”
He added: “It sets you back a little bit as well. You think, ‘flippin heck, he’s decent, I’m not as good as I thought I was’.
“It keeps you on your toes, definitely.
“There are players with England who I’ve known for a few years – not on a personal level, but players I’ve known about and thought ‘I’d like to play with them, that would be a good experience’.
“It’s not being starstruck, but thinking, ‘he’s a good player, I can see why he’s in the headlines as a young talent’. To compare yourself to them and be on the same pitch as them, you learn a lot.”
Having said that, Worrall can perhaps feel he has a slight advantage when he links up with the national team.
Since he arrived at the City Ground, Reds boss Mark Warburton has been keen to implement a passing style of football – similar to how England’s youngsters try to play.
“Aidy Boothroyd (Under-21s manager) is the same kind of coach as Mark Warburton, he’s very football minded and likes to get the ball on the floor,” said Worrall.
“With England, we come up against teams who try to do what teams try to do against us at Forest – nullify us, sit men behind the ball and try to hit us on the counter. It’s a good learning curve for me.”
Nevertheless, there are still some considerable differences between playing for Forest and competing for the Young Lions.
“There is a difference. There’s a lot more pace and power with England; just the speed of it all and the agility,” said Worrall. “Everyone is so young and fresh, it’s all very high tempo.
“In the Championship, you come up against different styles, teams who play long ball and teams, like ourselves, who pass the ball.
“With England, it’s pure football on the floor – bang, bang, bang! It’s very intense. You’ve not got a second to switch off.”