Gabriel Agbonlahor expects to be fit to play for Aston Villa at home to Everton a week tonight, despite sustaining a knee injury that brought a premature end to his contribution during the opening match at the new Wembley.
Agbonlahor impressed during the first half of the England Under-21 match against Italy on Saturday but the injury meant that he was substituted at half-time. The match was played in front of 55,700 people — a record for an U-21 international — and finished in a 3-3 draw.
But, having confirmed that he wants to represent England and not Nigeria at full international level, Agbonlahor reflected on what was one of the most significant days of his fledgling career.
He was joined in the starting line-up by Gary Cahill, the Villa centre-back, who played the entire match, while Ashley Young emerged as a late substitute. Liam Ridgewell, the fourth Villa player who made the squad, was an unused substitute.
"It was great to play at the new Wembley," Agbonlahor said. "There are many great matches to be played here, so to be part of the first match is brilliant for me. It was also exciting to be in the starting line-up.
"I have played in front of more people but you want to do your best, especially as it was live on television. I never went to the old Wembley but this one is something special. I should have scored. It reminds me of Arsenal's stadium. It feels like that.
"It was good that Villa had so many players here. I hope to be involved in the Under-21 tournament in the summer. Anyone can win the tournament, so I don't know if we're favourites.
"I came off at half-time with a knee injury. I am not doubtful for Villa's match on Monday [against Everton] because I had ice on the knee and it has improved. Hopefully, I will be OK."
Agbonlahor is hoping not only that he will be fit to face Everton, but that he can return to the form that is sure to make him Villa's young player of the season.
"The past two games with Villa, I was tired," he said. "I have played a lot of matches but that is what you want. When you are a kid, you do not want to be on the substitutes' bench, you want to play. I am not as sharp as I was at the start of the season but I do not have any excuses. I am in contract discussions and I want to stay at Villa in the future."
Cahill won his first Under-21 cap and, having attended the final FA Cup final at the old Wembley Stadium in 2000, was pleased to have played such a significant role in the first match at the new Wembley Stadium.
"It was a nice occasion and I have some memorabilia from the day," he said. "I was hoping that I would be playing because a few dropped out. I got the full 90 minutes. They were class opposition and the pitch did cut up a bit.
"When you play in that standard, it is about concentrating. It was difficult in the second half. I thought we were comfortable in the first half. We conceded too many goals for my liking. We should be more solid.
"We came to train here in the week and had a look around. It is a good stadium and I am just pleased that I played in the first match. It is definitely a highlight of my career so far but now you move on and move forward.
"It is your club form that gets you into the England Under-21 squad, so that is more important, but it was great to be involved in this.
"It was good that four Villa players were here. Most of the other clubs have only got two players here. Credit to the Villa staff, who have done a good job. With a bit of time, our youth policy will stand us in good stead."