As Jodi Jones prepares for the biggest game of his life, he thinks first of his family.
The 26-year-old winger was born and grew up in Bow, east London, and plays for Notts County in League Two.
But he qualifies for Malta through his father and has represented them since September last year.
While Friday is an opportunity for the ex-Arsenal academy player to test himself against the best, he is more excited about what it means for those closest to him.
“For my Great Nan, it’s a big ask for her to get over to Malta, she couldn’t get out to the first game,” Jones says, recalling Malta’s 4-0 home defeat by England in June.
“But now we’re at Wembley — it’s on her birthday, as well — she’s going to be able to come. It makes it that bit more special. She’s got Maltese in her, she’s always wanted me to [play for Malta]. She’ll be coming to the game.
“I’ve got children and little brothers who absolutely adore the England players, so I’m more excited for them than I am myself.
“In the home game, I got Bukayo Saka’s shirt, James Maddison’s, Declan Rice’s and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s.”
After spending time in the youth ranks at both Arsenal and West Ham, Jones started his career at Dagenham and Redbridge and then moved to Coventry, where for a short time he shared the dressing room with Maddison. The pair rekindled their friendship before the June meeting in Valletta.
“Growing up in England, I remember watching people like [David] Beckham, people like Joe Cole, who played for Coventry at the same time as me,” says Jones. “They end up being your idols.
“A lot of kids grew up screaming ‘Beckham’ in their garden as they took free-kicks — I certainly did. It made me want to play international football. I’d rather be playing against them than watching them.”
Jones, an Arsenal fan, still considers himself an England supporter, despite playing for Malta through his dad Jay’s heritage. “Playing England at Wembley — I don’t think there’s a more exciting game to play in,” he says.
“You’re playing against the best players in the world in the country I was born in.
"This England team is ridiculous, and it would be criminal if they didn’t win some major trophies. I think they will"
Malta's Jodi Jones
“Against England, people don’t expect us to win, but there is pressure, because you don’t want to get embarrassed.
“When you’re on the pitch with these players, you realise how good they are. People bang on about Harry Kane, Saka, Maddison, and there’s people like Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire that don’t get enough credit. When you play against them, you’re like, ‘Ah, okay. I understand how good they are’.
“The team is ridiculous, and it would be criminal if they didn’t win some major trophies. I think they will.”
Malta, with a team ranked Europe’s fourth-lowest, has a population of half a million.
They have lost all seven of their Euro 2024 qualifiers so far, conceding 18 goals and scoring just twice.
“We’ll try and stop them scoring, but we also believe we can hurt them,” says Jones. “Hopefully, in my wildest dreams, I can score against them.”