Young midfielder makes senior debut for Northern Ireland
It's been a busy seven days for Alfie McCalmont, from being on the bench for Leeds United's clash with Swansea, playing for the U23s against Bristol City, to making his senior debut for Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland last night.
With potential inclusion in tonight's U21s European Qualifier against Malta, we caught up with the young midfielder.
First off, congratulations on the debut Alfie! You were training with the U21s, then all of a sudden you're playing for the senior side, how did that switch come about?
AM: "Yeah, it's been great. It was really unexpected as we have the Euro Qualifiers for the U21s coming up, and we've been doing a lot of preparation for that.
"I missed the first day of training as I was playing for Leeds [U23s] against Bristol City on the Sunday, but Michael O'Neill spoke to me afterwards and said that I'll be training with the senior side in Belfast the following day. He said if I do well, and he likes what he sees, he'll involve me in the squad for the game against Luxembourg, which he did."
Making your senior debut for Northern Ireland, what were your feelings going into the game?
AM: "I was really happy and wanted to take my chance.
"I knew before the game that I'd be playing some minutes, but didn't know how long for. I was the first substitute to come on, so I just had to get my head in the game, and then just play as I do normally, but it was such a good feeling to play at Windsor, especially in front of the Northern Ireland fans.
"Now I've made my debut, hopefully I can get some more caps in the future."
What were the Northern Ireland fans like as you took to the field?
AM: "They were class. Every time I've been to watch a Northern Ireland game with the U21s the atmosphere has always been amazing, and Windsor reminds me a lot of Elland Road."
How did you find adapting to the game once you came on?
AM: "Obviously it's a lot different from when I play at Leeds. You've got to buy into what they want to do, buy into the shape, and I just had to quickly adapt, find my feet in the game, find who I was marking, where the space was, try and get on the ball, and play my normal game."
Has it helped having Stuart [Dallas] in the squad with you? Did he give you any advice before the game?
AM: "Definitely, he's really helped me over the last few days, and building up to last night. I've obviously been training alongside him, and speaking to him quite a lot, and he just told me before the game to enjoy the moment, and focus on my own strengths."
How did your family react to you making your senior debut last night?
AM: "Yeah they loved it. I phoned them last night, my grandad and the whole family were really happy for me. They watched it on tv and said they were really proud of me, so it felt great hearing that."
Switching back to the U21s, what's the aim with them over the next few days?
AM: "We've got a game tonight in the Euro Qualifiers tonight against Malta, so hopefully I'll feature in that. It's two games in two days, but I feel ready to go, and I'm looking forward to the challenge.
"We then fly to Finland and play them on Tuesday. With the squad that we have, and the preparations we've put in place, we're hoping to take six points out of the two games. We've all set our targets, and we all know what is expected of us."
On a personal level, you've had quite a busy week with Leeds and Northern Ireland, have you had a chance to step back and reflect on it?
AM: "It's all come really quickly. I've played a lot of football in a short space of time, but that's what I love doing most, so the more I can play the better. I'm just keeping my feet on the ground, take every game as it comes, and hopefully play my best."
COMING UP: The Northern Ireland U21s face Malta today from 7:30pm BST at The Ballymena Showgrounds, before an away trip to Finland on Tuesday 10th September (5:00pm BST) at Raatti Stadium.