Marc Guehi has said that he found it difficult to leave Chelsea after 14 years but felt the time was right to move to a club where he could play Premier League football every week.
The centre back joined Crystal Palace in a £18m deal in mid-July and was this evening named as England Under-21 captain for their European Championship qualifying campaign, an honour he says was partially down to the hard work of coaches in Chelsea’s academy.
The Under-21s, under new head coach Lee Carsley, begin with a home game against Kosovo in Milton Keynes tomorrow and Guehi is likely to be joined in the starting XI by Conor Gallagher, who is on loan at Palace from Chelsea, in addition to Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe and Tottenham Hotspur’s Oliver Skipp.
“It wasn’t an easy decision for me to leave Chelsea, having been at the club for so long, since I was seven years old,” he said. “I’m extremely grateful to everyone at Chelsea who helped me to get this far. It’s because of them that I’m here but I felt it was the right decision for me to move to Palace.
“It is a good opportunity to play regular football at such a high level in the Premier League to test myself and see how far I can go to improve my way. Looking at it that way I think it was the right decision.”
Guehi has slotted in well at Palace, who have had their teething problems under new head coach Patrick Vieira, but there is now a pressure to push on in his development as he gets to grips with being an important player for a Premier League club.
“It’s been a good start for me,” he said. “I’m just trying to find my feet at the moment at a new club with a new gaffer. It’s been a fantastic start for me. Everyone’s made me feel very welcome there, really enjoying the football. Hopefully it can continue.
“The main thing for me is to keep playing games, keep developing and improving as much as possible.”
Being given the armband by Carsley helps. Guehi said that he was “shocked and surprised” when he found out that he would lead the side in a group stage also featuring Andorra, Czech Republic and Slovenia.
“It’s an honour, a privilege to be captain,” he added. It’s a very proud moment for me and my family to have my name there as captain. I’m very grateful for those who chose me. As a leader I won’t do anything too differently but I am definitely someone who is quite vocal and wants to help the players reach their potential.”
The head coach, who faced the hiccup of his first game in charge – a friendly away to Romania last Friday – being cancelled 24 hours before due to two positive Covid tests in the camp, has promoted a host of new names from younger age groups.
But the core will still be made up of some who endured the disappointment of crashing out at the group stage of this summer’s tournament. Guehi, part of the Under-17 team that won the World Cup four years ago, has been part of the Under-21 setup since August 2019 and Carsley, the former Everton and Ireland midfielder, was effusive in his praise upon confirming his leadership role.
“I’ve known him for two or three years from working previously with the Under-21s and straight away I was impressed by how mature he is, the way he talks about the game, the way he influences players off the pitch,” Carsley said.
“With international football we get a lot of downtime off the pitch, with very little time training. The example he sets off the pitch as well as on it made it an easy choice. We’ve got a lot of leaders within the team and I expect Marc to get well supported by the group.
“We have some big personalities capable of leading and helping Marc but in terms of the way he handled playing in the Championship with Swansea and now at Crystal Palace.
“He’s a player in form, ready for the responsibility. I think he’ll thrive in this position. On and off the pitch he’ll be a great example not only for the Under-21s but the whole pathway.”
Source by Football London