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England debut worth the wait for James Maddison as he aims to move on from casino visit controversy

Tom Morgan
The Leicester City midfielder was told to be 'high-performance, low maintenance' after being photographed in a casino the day after he was pulled out of the previous England squad through illness - Action Images via Reuters

James Maddison is refusing to discuss his casino visit controversy while he patches up his relationship with Gareth Southgate after finally making his England debut.

The Leicester City playmaker came off the bench in the second half against Montenegro to make his long-awaited first appearance, and was expected to get even more playing time in Kosovo on Sunday before potentially being ruled out with a calf injury.

Before he was introduced for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 56th minute on Thursday, Southgate put an arm around Maddison, who had been sweating on his squad place after being photographed in a casino the day after he was pulled out of the previous England squad through illness.

The manager, who had vowed to talk to him about the furore, said prior to the Montenegro game that the 22-year-old needed to be “high-performance, low maintenance” to keep his place. The midfielder, however, appeared to remain raw on the subject, telling reporters "no comment" when the subject was brought up.

Coventry-born Maddison spoke instead of his delight at finally making his debut, explaining that he refused to swap shirts afterwards due to a childhood promise to his father, Gary. "You would have had to fight me to get that off me," he said of the shirt. "I’ll get it signed by all the lads and give it to my dad. He said when I was a little kid, if you ever play for England I want your shirt so I have to give it to him."

Maddison came on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to make his England debut in the 56th minute against Montenegro Credit: PA

Maddison, who has played a pivotal role in the Premier League in his side's surge to second place, had been made to wait for his first cap for his country despite being called up to the squad four times. He had been a contender to start on Thursday, but Southgate opted instead for Oxlade-Chamberlain in his midfield alongside youngster Mason Mount.

The wait was worthwhile, however. "Playing for your country is the pinnacle," Maddison said. "I’ve had to wait a little bit, been on the bench a few times, been in a few squads, and that’s made it all the more sweet, more special.

"I’ll never forget that feeling when I was waiting to come on. That was a special feeling." 

Maddison praised the pathway created in breaking into the senior side from the U21s. Southgate fielded the youngest starting XI on 60 years this week. "There is a pathway is there," he said. "You look at the average age of the squad - I’ve just been told in the dressing room, it was really young tonight. So age isn’t really a thing now, you just have to be good enough."