Playing at the European Under-19 Championship is one of the biggest competitions I’ve ever played in. We haven’t reached any big finals at club level and to play for your country in a big tournament like this, it has to be one of the biggest.
I think we have a very good chance of winning it. I think that’s not just because of the talent in the squad, but also because of the hard work and this team spirit. We have a great bunch of guys and everything about the camp is positive.
I think the employees have played a big role in building that togetherness. We’re always together, we’re always hanging out with different people, sharing rooms with different people, and we’re together on the training ground and in the gym all the time. There are also many things we can do together such as watching pool, darts and Love Island!
On a personal level this season has gone well for me as I play regularly in the league and have established myself in the England U19 squad, but as a collective we were relegated which was disappointing. For me personally, however, I was able to take a lot of positives from the season and now the focus is entirely on the European Championship and the hopefully won victory.
Back to basics: I grew up in Harlow, Essex and mostly played football with my good friends at a field called Sumners. My brother also plays soccer, but because of the age difference, we didn’t play much together.
I started playing for my Sunday league team, the Sumners, when I was six. Then, just before we went to the U8s, we played in a Ware tournament where there were a lot of scouts and because I interfered a lot with the team, I was scouted by Barnet.
I couldn’t really play for anyone else, but when the Sumners had a big tournament in the summer and I wasn’t playing for Barnet, I would sometimes go up to them and play for them because I loved playing for the team and just loving football to play time. I probably did that until I was about 11.
I also played for Passmores Academy at school and we played at the Nationals and the Essex Cup. We also played futsal and also reached the final of a national cup. We played against real futsal teams and we were the only school left in the competition, so we did well.
We had a pretty good team at school and I used to be the set piece shooter. I remember the national cup, it was the last minute and I took a free kick in the top compartments. My teachers went nuts and everyone ran onto the square. It was great memories.
I was a midfielder all my life, up until the late stages at Barnet and then I went to Peterborough United as a centre-back. I think my childhood as a midfielder played a big part in me being able to play from behind now.
Coaches have played a big role in my development, but I also think it has to come from you. As a U15 player, there was a time when I got in my dad’s car and wanted to stop playing football. I was playing in the U18s and the first team at the time and I went on holiday in preparation because I was in ninth grade and when I came back I didn’t even play in the U18s. 16 team. I just thought, what chance do I have if a central defense plays over me in midfield.
I would say to my father, “What’s going on?” I went for six games and didn’t even get to it and my head just went. But it’s up to your own beliefs and your own personality to say, ‘You can do it’ and since the U16 season I’ve really kept going and it’s all been positive.
I think those early days of football are the ones to appreciate the most. Of course you enjoy football when you grow up but in the younger age groups there is no pressure at all and you can just go out and play with your mates with a smile on your face.
You can still try that now, but when you’re younger there’s less pressure and it doesn’t matter what happens on the pitch.
Looking back on those early days, it was just excitement. I’m not like that anymore, but back then I just ran all over the pitch and wanted to attack everyone, I wanted to score goals and prepare everyone. It was just the sheer joy of playing football.