Jack Harrison is the latest recruit for England’s under-21s and has revealed he paid £1,200 from his own pocket to avoid his international career hitting early turbulence.
Harrison, the New York City FC forward, was a surprise inclusion for the under-21s earlier this week but endured a nightmare start after missing his flight from JFK Airport to Heathrow on Sunday evening.
Hours after the highlight of his career, when he was named in Aidy Boothroyd’s squad, the 20-year-old was stuck in Manhattan traffic and agonising over how to overcome an awkward situation.
But Harrison reacted quickly to book his own flight to London and then raced up the M1 in an FA car to St George’s Park, in a clear sign of his commitment to continue his promising career path.
“I was really disappointed, the traffic was terrible and I couldn’t get hold of anyone at the FA as it was in the middle of the night,” he said.
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) October 1, 2017
“I thought the best thing was just to get over there so I decided to book the first flight out on Monday morning. It’s cost me $1,500 but it’s an honour to be called up by England.
“I left New York at 8am on Monday and arrived here at 10.30pm on Monday night. I’m still trying to figure the time difference out…”
Harrison’s timing could not have been better, for it has been a remarkable 12 months for the player known as ‘Golden Boy’ by his team-mates in the New York City FC locker room. It has been quite an education, playing alongside the likes of Spain’s World Cup winner David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and his idol, Frank Lampard, who he still speaks to regularly.
Being named in Boothroyd’s squad is a reward for his steady progress under former Arsenal and Manchester City midfielder Patrick Vieira, who gave him the good news before the 1-1 draw with Chicago Fire on Sunday.
Born in Stoke but raised in Bolton, the bold decision to quit Manchester United’s academy at the age of 14 appears to have been vindicated. After taking a scholarship at the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts, he then studied at Wake Forest University before joining New York City two years ago, shortly after the MLS club was founded.
“My mum [Debbie] came up with the idea of me going to boarding school in America to improve my education while I played football,” he said.
“I was really apprehensive at first and didn’t want to leave because everyone in that system is just tunnel-visioned and just think about making it to the first time and a lot of players don’t.
“United were disappointed but I don't regret going out to America at all. I have not only learnt a lot there about football but I have learnt a lot about life in general. I'm a well-rounded person, being at all these different places and meeting different people. It has definitely helped me become who I am today and, luckily for me, it’s all worked out.”
Harrison will play some part in either of the Euro 2019 qualifiers against Scotland or Andorra, with Boothroyd revealing he has been on the FA's radar for a year.
He insists the standard of the MLS, which is still perceived as average at best in this country, is high. “A lot of people look down on the MLS from here, having the Premier League, which is one of the best leagues in the world, but in reality it’s not that different to a Championship side,” he said.
“All the guys out there are really athletic and then on top of that you have players who have played in the Premier League before and had that experience under their belt. The league is developing rapidly.
“Playing with Pirlo, Villa and Lampard, and learning off Vieira, you learn so much about things on and off the field.”