For Brentford’s Rico Henry, a game against Chelsea is both competitive and inspirational.
In Ben Chilwell, Chelsea own one of the left-back slots in Gareth Southgate’s squad, which England hope Henry wants to play one day.
Meanwhile, Reece James embodies the all-round fullback and main contributor on both sides of the pitch that Henry is working towards, although there will be no direct battle between the pair on Wednesday due to the Blues star’s knee injury.
Brentford’s Rico Henry has opened up his ambitions for England after good form this season
Henry hopes to impress England manager Gareth Southgate and earn his first Three Lions cap
Ahead of next month’s World Cup, those who are currently where Henry wants to be and how he can boost his own international prospects are very much on the minds of the 25-year-old, along with his and Brentford’s form.
Left-back Henry is among a group of players who have performed well and consistently for their clubs, looking from the outside in when it comes to England, but still harboring hopes of beating the side for Qatar.
As the clock ticks on, there’s only one approach to the situation they can realistically take – as long as there’s time, there’s still a chance, so keep faith.
“Of course you should,” Henry agreed. “You just need to focus on yourself.
‘The games are coming thick and fast because of the World Cup, so you don’t have time to dwell on the [last] game. You just need to focus on the next one.
Ben Chilwell has set the standard at left-back for both Chelsea and England
“I want to be in the England team. That will be a big dream of mine. I need to concentrate on my work at Brentford now and hopefully it will come someday.”
Brentford manager Frank believes that day should have already come with a call-up for Henry to the final meeting in England with his Bees team-mate Ivan Toney.
“He said I should have been on the squad,” Henry explained when asked how Frank reacted to his absence.
“It would have been a good time for me, but I just need to let it pass and focus on what’s to come.”
Henry has steadily risen in the leagues throughout his career, rising and thriving with each raise.
Brentford manager Thomas Frank thinks his left-back Henry deserves a call-up
He started his career in League One with Walsall, moving to Brentford in the Championship and helping them to the Premier League, where he emerged as one of their key players at the highest level.
He played for England at under-19 and under-20 level alongside current senior team members Dean Henderson and Tammy Abraham.
Graduating to the full roster would be a natural next step, but he insisted: “There’s not really a lot of pressure on me right now. There is no pressure because I have not been on the squad before.
“I want to compete at the highest level and with the top players like Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell who are currently in the squad.
“I think I could if I had the chance. I want to compete with the guys who are currently on the team and hopefully I can get my chance soon. I just have to work on myself and keep going.’
Ivan Toney’s scoresheet for Brentford led to an England call-up, but he didn’t win a first cap
That process is an ongoing one, aided by the lessons learned from playing weekly wingers in the Premier League.
Henry has more than held his own in the top division, enjoying battles with standout opponents such as Wolves’ Adama Traore and quickly learned last season that you can’t even finish second after being penalized by Mo Salah in the 3-3 draw from Liverpool to Brentford.
Such occasions are rare with Henry, who has long been compared to Ashley Cole, known for his defensive powers and one-on-one qualities.
He’s also improving quickly as an attacking threat, taking on Frank’s challenge to become one of Brentford’s most advanced players and determined to add more goals and assists to his game while continuing to excel defensively.
It’s no longer an easy task to be a modern full back because of the huge demands placed on them and Henry said, ‘Obviously you can’t have everything, but you have to work on it. Reece James is good at both. He inspires me too, so I just want to keep going and get contributions to goals.”
Henry takes on Bournemouth’s defenses on Brentford’s recent trip to the south coast
Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier is another full-back who has impressed Henry.
“We played against Newcastle recently and Trippier was excellent. He’s another one I look up to. I could take parts of his game and adapt it to mine,” he said.
“The way he is composed on the ball and he changed quite a few times, he gets crosses. It was a good experience to play against him.’
A natural in the position, Henry was an interested viewer as right-backs like Trippier were seen in certain matches as the solution to England’s left-back problems.
But, supported by everyone at Brentford, he hopes eventually to be able to influence that situation himself.
He said: ‘She’ [Brentford’s staff] tell me if you go on like this one day, you’ll get your chance and take it. It’s good to hear that.’