BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Crystal Palace captain Marc Guehihas revealed his family were not at Wembley to watch him make his senior England debut.
The centre-back played the full 90 minutes for Gareth Southgate’s side in their 2-1 win over Switzerland on Saturday evening.
The step up to the senior team represents the full house for the former Cray Wanderers player, having represented England now at all levels from U16 upwards, but he was still nervous, as was his family too.
“I didn’t have my family here, sometimes they get a bit nervous,” said Guehi to BBC Radio 5Live Sport. “They prefer to watch the game at home. They definitely were tempted [to come], but I know they’re watching from afar, supporting me on. I always feel their love in my heart.
“I was a bit nervous, but that’s normal for any player. The senior players and everyone in the squad have really taken us in and made us feel comfortable and within the squad allowing us to feel at home at Wembley. They have made it really easy for me in training and the clear messages that we got from the staff have been fantastic. The senior players and everyone around us have really helped us to feel comfortable and be ourselves.
“It helps that you’re playing Premier League football week in, week out. That’s a factor – if you’re constantly playing games at a high level it eases that transition a little bit to playing at this level, but it’s still a really high level and you still need to adapt to that level.”
Guéhi was part of a back three for England unlike his role in a back four under Palace boss Patrick Vieira. At Wembley he played alongside Conor Coady and Ben White, with Luke Shaw on his left side and fellow debutant Kyle Walker-Peters on the right, in advanced roles.
“Knowing that we’ve had a good week of training to try and adapt to the system I was quite calm and relaxed,” he explained. “I’ve played in a back four all season [but] it varies. I played in a three when I was at Swansea on loan. I wasn’t too unfamiliar with the formation. It just helps being adaptable in any formation and when you’ve got players alongside you that make it a lot easier, so it’s a little bit better.”
Following the match Guehi was presented with his first cap – now called a ‘Legacy Cap’ – by former Palace captain and current England boss Gareth Southgate, complete with his legacy number – 1,268. Fellow Palace England debutant Tyrick Mitchell was given 1,269, Gallagher is 1267.
“I was presented with my legacy cap and each player has their own number,” said a clearly emotional Guehi. “Now it’s going to be engraved in the shirt as well. It’s a moment in history for me and for England. I’m really proud. The manager presented it to me – a fantastic feeling and I’m fantastically proud.
“For me and my family to get to this point in my career is fantastic.”
Guehi’s family is likely not to miss the next England match; their first-ever meeting with Ivory Coast on Tuesday. The defender was born in the West African nation’s capital city Abidjan, before his family moved to South London when he was one.
And he will be relishing the chance to not only take the pitch with fellow Palace team-mates Gallagher and Mitchell again, but to face the Eagles’ and Ivorian talisman Wilfried Zaha.
PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD