‘I hope I can give a positive message to kids from south London’

'I hope I can give a positive message to kids from south London'

Wednesday’s game is back in what Sancho calls his “hometown” and with Harry Kane and Dele Alli injured, one gets the impression that it may leave the stage clear for the another English star to shine. Harry Winks is the Spurs player Sancho knows best from his time with the England seniors. “We were both new,” he says. Sancho did not feature in the two Champions League defeats for Dortmund to Spurs last season when they met in the group stages

“I feel like we have improved from last season so it won’t be the same match as last year” he says. “I think it will be more difficult for them. Especially as they have some big players missing out so it is going to be a tough one.” Does he know about his profile back home? “No, I’m not aware at all. Obviously I’ve seen Twitter things, but I don’t ask questions really. I just stay focused on what I’m doing, and just keep going forward.”

Yet the Sancho story, the boy who moved from Watford to Manchester City and then turned down Pep Guardiola for first team football at Dortmund, is a game-changer. He has opened a door for Premier League academy talent now looking to Europe to launch their professional careers.

“Me being so comfortable being abroad, I think it’s due to the fact I’ve always been away from home from young,” he reflects on the life of the prodigy. “When I first left home it was very difficult, Harefield Academy [the Hertfordshire boarding school] when I was at Watford. It was difficult because I wasn’t used to it. I was always with my mum. The first couple of years were very tough, and then as I got older, people started to tell me, ‘It’s either this, or going back home.’ And I always loved football, so I always chose the hard option. That’s what’s made me more comfortable being away from home than other people. So I’m kind of lucky.”

Born in south London, raised in Kennington, he estimates about 30 ticket requests from friends and family for the game. You can see he is wrestling with this new fame – where it might take him and what kind of responsibilities it entails. Sancho is a polite and smiley teenager who walks around the room shaking hands before taking his seat. Perhaps these are the last times we will see the boy before the superstar emerges with all the detachment and scepticism that comes as part of the territory. In Dortmund, an industrial Ruhr city, obsessed with its football team, he lives with his father Sean. “I like the city a lot,” he says. “It’s just chilled, nice people. I’m loving it.”

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