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Aarons - 'England Under-21 Call-Up An Honour'

NUFC Logo Newcastle United FC

Rolando Aarons speaks to nufc.co.uk about his maiden call-up to the England under-21 squad

By Dan King - Newcastle United Digital Editor

Rolando Aarons has described his first call-up to the England under-21 squad as "an honour" - and is hoping to catch the eye of coach Gareth Southgate when he reports for international duty later this month.

The 20-year-old winger was one of three new faces in Southgate's 22-man squad for the Three Lions' European Under-21 Championships qualifier against Switzerland on Saturday, 26th March.

He has previously played for his country at under-20 level, scoring on his international debut against Romania in September 2014.

Aarons, a product of Newcastle's Little Benton Academy, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but moved to England at the age of five and, speaking about his call-up, he told nufc.co.uk: "It's something I've actually been looking towards this season and I'm happy to have made the squad. It's an honour.

"It seems as if that's when it becomes a bit more serious - but whether I'm called up to the under-20s or the under-21s, I don't mind. It's an honour to play for England and I'll always see it that way so I'm buzzing that I'm in the squad."

Aarons was on the training pitch with his United team-mates when the squad was announced at 11am on Thursday, and didn't learn of his selection until lunchtime.

He explained: "After training, I looked at my phone and in the group chat that I'm in with all my friends, they were talking about it.

"Then I saw it on Sky Sports. I didn't know anything about it until about 12 noon."

But the news certainly gave the youngster a spring in his step for the team's second training session of the day later that afternoon.

He impressed for England's under-20s at the Toulon Tournament last June, scoring against China, and admits his displays in France could have contributed to his latest call-up.

"That, and playing games for Newcastle, has helped," said Aarons, who has filled in at left-back on a handful of occasions for Newcastle this term but has been chosen by Southgate for his pace and trickery on the wing.

"I'll do a job wherever I have to but obviously I'd like to be a wide player because I like scoring goals and setting goals up.

"Hopefully when I go there, they see me as an attacker and I'm looking forward to showing what I can do."

Southgate has already challenged Aarons to make the most of injuries to the likes of Duncan Watmore and Nathan Redmond and "impress" the England staff.

And Aarons is excited at the prospect of learning from the ex-England defender.

"I've heard good things about him and I'm looking forward to working with him," said the Newcastle starlet.

"He's worked with a lot of players that have gone on to play for the senior team, so I'm looking forward to it."

Aarons, of course, also has a new manager at club level after Rafa Benitez replaced Steve McClaren at St. James' Park last week.

The former Real Madrid boss saw his first game in charge end in defeat at Leicester on Monday night, but oversaw a performance which was a big improvement on recent displays.

And Aarons said: "It's given us a lift - the type we need going into the last nine games.

"Tactically, we've changed a little and you can see by the Leicester game that we defended a bit better. Hopefully it should serve us well in the last nine games."

The first of those fixtures will come against Sunderland on Sunday.

Not only is local pride at stake, but the Black Cats are also fighting against the drop along with the Magpies and Aarons insisted: "It's a massive game.

"Derbies are always massive but I think this is probably the biggest one that there's been in a while.

"We're obviously looking to win the game. It's not really about performances - we're just looking to win."