Ryan Bertrand has put his eye-catching run into Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad down to his personal fitness plan over the last few months.
The Southampton left-back was thought to be behind Kieran Gibbs, Luke Shaw and Leighton Baines in the pecking order at the start of the season but his recent performances have propelled him into the 26-man squad which is now training at St George’s Park.
With just seven defenders in the group, Bertrand is almost certain to keep his place in the 23 which Hodgson will name on Sunday 29 May, after their preparation friendly against Australia.
Bertrand explained at St George’s Park on Wednesday that, at the time of the season when most players are winding down, he had been pushing himself especially hard.
“I feel good,” Bertrand said. “If anything I’ve been raising the training levels, as the season’s petered out the more I have had to train. Naturally the clubs chill out a bit when the season’s done but I’ve been trying to ensure that my fitness levels are right up there still so I can maintain the sharpness.”
“After lunch [at Southampton], some will go home and some will go back outside,” Bertrand said. “I will go outside and do my fitness. It is not something you want to do in front of everyone, as if to say ‘look at me, I’m doing my work.’ But, personally, I like to maintain my fitness.”
Bertrand only has seven England caps spread over the last four years and said it was only by concentrating on his Southampton form that he made it into the squad.
“As with anything, you have to work towards it,” Bertrand said. “Nothing is a given, for any player. I wasn’t getting too caught up in anything because there is fantastic competition for places all over the pitch. I was just concentrating on my club football and hoping that would do the job.”
Bertrand praised the contribution of Ronald Koeman to his development after his second full season at St Mary’s.
“I was fortunate that I had a club like Southampton to go to [from Chelsea], a very forward-thinking club, who have a brilliant manager that I have been playing under,” Bertrand said. “He has allowed me to express myself and here I am today. Koeman gives us a good platform, the right instructions and tactics, but allows us to do more than that.”
“He doesn’t tell us to remain rigid and hit a wall at the halfway line. He allows us to express ourselves and really encourages us to do more.”
John Stones was the only fit centre-back who took part in England training on Wednesday afternoon, with Chris Smalling on Manchester United duty and Gary Cahill rested as a precaution. Cahill, though, is expected to recover in time for England’s game against Turkey on Sunday.
Security questions were raised when a young spectator ran onto the pitch during an eight-a-side training game, but he was swiftly escorted from the pitch.