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Joe Gomez explains impact of return to place of traumatic injury with England

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Joe Gomez says his return to St George’s Park with England for the first time in three and a half years has closed the chapter on a difficult period of his career which had a “psychological toll”.

The Liverpool defender is back on the international scene following a fine season, making the cut in Gareth Southgate’s final squad selection before he names his 23-man pool for Euro 2024.

It was during a session while away with England in November 2020 when Gomez injured the tendons in his knee, leading to surgery and an eight-month spell on the sidelines that became a near-four year absence from Southgate’s squad.

Now Gomez is back in the reckoning and feels he has already put the pain behind him – even before the upcoming Wembley friendly double-header against Brazil and Belgium.

“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have a psychological toll,” he replied when asked how it felt to return to the same training pitch where he suffered his injury.

“I left in an ambulance quite abruptly from the training pitch. It meant a lot to me. Just even yesterday, doing the warm up. It was nice to feel like I could close that chapter, not to be over dramatic.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Thursday, October 8, 2020: England's Joe Gomez during the International Friendly match between England and Wales at Wembley Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK Government’s social distancing laws prohibiting supporters from attending events inside stadiums as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic. England won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Everyone gets injured, it is part of the game but it being so sudden, the way it happened, just leaving and never really getting the chance to come back was tough to deal with.

“It has meant a lot just to be in the mix, to be with the boys and close that chapter for me personally.”

Gomez has always been a favourite of Southgate, playing regularly under the England boss when he was in charge of the under-21s set-up.

Southgate, too, handed the now 26-year-old his senior debut in 2017 and Gomez is now delighted to be back amongst it once again.

“At that time, I was probably 22 or so and being away (from the England squad) for so long, naturally everyone gets older, you get a different outlook and perspective.

“I am appreciative of that side of the journey and I can use that to understand that there’s a lot going on.

“Obviously it is a massive privilege and it comes with its pressures, playing for England. But also understanding you’ve got to be grateful to be here. You don’t have to be here. It is a big privilege.

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 27, 2023: Liverpool's Joe Gomez celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St James' Park. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Gareth has been good with me. I was with Gareth all the way through the 21s and he picked me for my debut. That was nice to reunite with him and be back doing what I’m meant to be doing.

“Gareth’s great in that sense on an individual basis, keeping in touch and speaking to the players.

“It is surreal (to be back), four years is quite a long time. I have probably spent a fair bit of that time wanting to be back in the mix, seeing the team do so well and having a taste of it when I was younger was special.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend time thinking that I wanted to be back with the boys and playing at this level. It has given me a new appreciation to be here, a different perspective now I know the flip side.”