James Maddison feels fit, sharp and like his World Cup starts now after the England midfielder overcame a knee complaint.
The in-form 26-year-old was the most eye-catching name in Gareth Southgate’s squad bound for Qatar having only previously represented his country once back in November 2019.
Maddison had hearts in mouths just a couple of days later when limping out of Leicester’s win at West Ham with a knee complaint that subsequently ruled him out of England’s first two Group B games.
The midfielder returned to full training on Saturday after a period of rehabilitation and is champing at the bit to impress for his country on the world stage.
“It’s really nice to be back in training, obviously going from being very frustrated,” Maddison said.
“I was in good form, getting the call-up, which is what I was after, getting to Qatar and then having that little problem that was keeping me inside for a little bit longer than what I would have hoped.
“But it’s feeling good now, back out full training, have been for the last few days so feeling good, feeling sharp and ready for the game.”
Asked if he feels like his World Cup is starting now, he said: “The first two games it’s been about, for me, being there for the lads.
“Obviously not being able to affect it on the pitch and haven’t been on the bench because of the little knee problem I’ve had.
“But I’m feeling good now, I’m feeling fit and almost like, yeah, my World Cup starts now.
“Back in training, this will be the first game that I’ve been involved in, so it’s about showing that I’m here now and I’m here to do a job.
“Hopefully that’ll happen and if I get the chance show what I can do. Just do what I do on a weekly basis.”
While unlikely to start against Wales, Maddison could come off the bench to win his second cap – a memorable belated birthday present after turning 26 last Wednesday.
The midfielder spoke glowingly about the way team-mates and the Football Association helped him celebrate and praised the spirit Southgate has helped to cultivate.
“Honestly, the feel in the group and the dynamic amongst the squad is something I’ve probably never seen before,” he told ‘The Lions’ Den’ on England’s YouTube channel.
“Obviously from the outside in previous years and seeing the Euro stuff and that, you look at the videos, the Insta, the Lions’ Den and stuff like that and you can just tell like the camaraderie and the atmosphere is so positive and so good.
“It doesn’t disappoint when you’re in it. That togetherness is brilliant.”
Maddison added: “I just think the squad at the minute, it’s just got a perfect balance.
“And to be fair, even going bigger than that with all the staff and the togetherness – the perfect example was we played a game wolf and it just brings everyone together.
“Even at club level, you won’t get like last night. We had 16 lads around the pool in the seating area playing wolf and having a great time, just having fun, no one on their phones. All just playing.
“Just stuff like that and like the dynamic between the staff and players, the banter and everything. It’s almost like a club with the country.
“I’ve heard previous international players talk about obviously in past times and at past major tournaments how the rivalry of club stuff would take over.
“Whereas this we’re all here to do a job, all here representing our nation. It’s a pleasure to be a part of, to be honest.”