England C's Russell Penn notes Lions' pride at pulling on shirt.
International Challenge Trophy
Tuesday 19 May 2009
Kassam Stadium, Oxford United
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Kidderminster Harriers midfielder Russell Penn is one of the ‘old heads’ of England C football and he will need to draw upon every ounce of his international experience when taking on Belgium in the Final of the International Challenge Trophy (ICT) next week.
Although the 24-year-old has only seven England caps to his name, he is one of the few players in Paul Fairclough’s squad to have been involved since the start of ICT qualifying at the back-end of 2007. Since then, Penn has cemented his position and will be hoping to make an impact in the Final at Oxford United’s Kassam Stadium.
“I had been on the standby list for about two games before [my debut], so I knew I was quite close to getting a call-up,” said Penn. “When it came it was brilliant. It was a great achievement and it just showed how well I was playing for my club. It was great for that to be recognised and get the call... and it was just a huge honour to put the shirt on."
Penn’s first game in an England shirt came in the ICT group game against Finland, played in Arctic conditions at Helsinki’s Finnair Stadium. England won 2-0 and it was the beginning of a fine run of form for Fairclough’s men that has culminated in the possible defence of the competition they won in 2006.
“We’ve had a great squad over the past two years and there’s some real quality in the leagues right now,” said Penn. That quality has served the squad well but the Harriers man is quick to point out the additional impact that donning the Three Lions also has on the Football Conference players.
“[The manager] knows how much it means to us to put the England shirt on and he doesn’t really need to say a lot in preparation for our games. He’ll go through tactics on how the opposition play but apart from that we just go out there, roll our sleeves up and do what we do on a Saturday.”
It is clearly a strategy that has paid dividends, and as Penn and his team-mates prepare for one of the biggest games of their international careers, he is confident they can maintain the focus that will continue their winning formula.
“The winning mentality has always been there... They put it in you as soon as you get involved with the squad, focusing you on nothing else but winning.
“[The Final] will be a tough game, they’re no mugs [Belgium]. They’re in the same position as us, having won their group, so it will be an enjoyable game. But we’ve got to go out there wanting to win the game and I think we’ll be favourites.