Danny Welbeck is wearing that big, broad grin of his and is reflecting on a first England goal, against Belgium, which he admits he had been mentally rehearsing ever since his first days kicking a ball in Markfield Avenue, Longsight – the unprepossessing Manchester district where he and his old friend Wes Brown grew up. But while he does so, we get the sense that his seat on the England plane which leaves Luton Airport for Krakow today is one that he has been through hell to reach.
All might be well today for the man likely to lead Roy Hodgson's line-up against France next Monday, but the sense of devastation he felt on the night of 30 April – after a tackle by Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong in the title-defining Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium left suspicions in the United camp of a hairline fracture of the leg – remains with him. "That night I went home and all sorts of emotion went through my head," he says. "At that point, it was very downheartening. I didn't know what was happening until I had the scan in the morning."
That scan revealed a severely bruised shin bone, though even then it was touch and go. Back at the Etihad for England 's first training sessions with Hodgson two weeks back, he was unable to participate. "At times I was thinking, 'Maybe I won't be able to make it'," he admits now.
The sharpness of Welbeck's finish against the Belgians suggests that, with Welbeck, Hodgson's prayers have been answered. So convinced is the manager that Welbeck is his man that he had been prepared to gamble on him not training until the squad's arrival on the banks of the Vistula in southern Poland, late this afternoon.
Yet the last month has not been his only setback. He learnt long ago to keep football things in perspective because of its habit of biting you. It emerged quite early that football would provide his road, though. Welbeck feels this moment has been a long time coming and is not afraid to say that he considers this trip his personal destiny.
And while he's not quite at full fitness yet, he's withstood the bumpy journey well enough to arrive in Poland with no sense of anxiety. "I've got to keep positive," he says. "It's football, sometimes you are fit and sometimes you are not, you've got to take it a positive way and try and build on that."Reuse content