England and Arsenal hotshot speaks ahead of the Nordic Tournament.
The Nordic Tournament
Saturday 30 July - Monday 8 August 2011
Click here for fixtures
By Samuel Philip Steinbock
A new wave of England U17 internationals will get their first taste of a continental competition when they kick-off their Nordic Tournament campaign against Faroe Islands on Tuesday.
Among Kenny Swain
's squad for the games in Iceland is Arsenal forward Chuba Akpom, who spoke to TheFA.com about his call-up and his previous international experience with the Young Lions last season. He featured for the U16s in the Victory Shield with an appearance against Northern Ireland helping England to lift the trophy for the tenth consecutive year
, after previously travelling to Slovenia for a friendly game in February.
“It was very good," said Akpom, of his international debut. "I came on as a sub [against Northern Ireland] and felt that I made an impact.
"I enjoyed the whole experience. I liked the way we were treated; we trained like professionals and it was all structured very much like the first team, which was amazing."
After working hard at club level, Akpom admitted he could immediately sense the difference between domestic and international football, and that this is an experience he could take back into his games in the Academy League with the Gunners.
“For international games, the best players from every nation are selected," he said. "No international games are easy so it’s a good experience as you’re testing yourself against the best players around.”
When asked what advice he would give to this year's U16s, who will be making their first England appearances in the Victory Sheild later in the year, he was quick to explain:
“Just train well and play good in every game. Try and make the most of it and most importantly, enjoy it.
“Make sure you’re always playing well for your club in every appearance, as England scouts are always there watching you and can come to any game. It will surprise you. They know how you’re progressing, so if you do well you’ll get called up.”
Now that Chuba has been confirmed as part of the 18-man group for the Nordics, he's looking to keep on impressing and ultimately become a regular for the U17s over the course of the season.
“I’m looking forward to it and feel sharp," he explained. "I want to do well so that I can be picked for the next squad and then afterwards for the Euro qualifiers which is the main goal for every player at this level.”
Akpom understands this will be his first international tournament in this format, with successive games over a short period of time and it's therefore a new challenge altogether, so he has plans to remain match-fit.
“I guess what’s most important will be making sure that I recover well between games, get enough rest and remain sharp throughout," he admitted. "It will be an amazing experience, that is without doubt, and will be something I can learn from for the future.”
Last season, Akpom and three club mates - Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill
, Jack Jebb
and Isaac Hayden
- continued a long line of young Gunners who went on to represent the Young Lions.
“We are all very close all talk to each other, so it is easier settling in when you have your team-mates with you," he said.
“I talk to Chuks Aneke, we are very close and Benik Afobe
, Nico Yennaris
and Zak Ansah
. I talk to all of them and they all give you good advice.
“Jay Emmanuel-Thomas is one who speaks to me a lot and gives me good advice. They just tell me to keep my head down respect the coaches and do the best I can.”
After Faroe Islands, the U17s will take on Norway 24 hours later before rounding off their group campiagn against the host nation on 5 August. One final game will take place on Monday 8 August against a nation from the other four-team group - either Sweden, Denmark, Finland or a second Iceland team.