Wickham keen to keep it going
Friday, 28 May, 2010
Semi-Final hero now wants to go all the way.
UEFA European U17 Championship
Rheinpark Stadion, Vaduz
By Glenn Lavery in Liechtenstein
Connor Wickham articulated his delight after his two first-half strikes propelled England into the Final of the UEFA European U17 Championship in Liechtenstein.
Against France on Thursday afternoon, Wickham collected Benik Afobe’s pass and rifled the ball beyond Alphonse Aréola to give England a 23rd-minute lead. Just before the half-time whistle he doubled the advantage with a carbon copy finish, this time from a Conor Coady through ball and although Paul Pogba pulled a goal back in the second half, John Peacock’s young charges defended heroically to book their place in Sunday’s showpiece.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Wickham, of winning a lively semi-final. “The team played well and hopefully we can take that into the Final and go all the way. Hopefully we can win it now.”
Wickham’s brace represented his sixth and seventh goals in this European Championship campaign, but his first two at the Finals and he said they came at just the right time.
“I played in two [Group B] games and I hadn’t scored so I was desperate to score [against France]. I got the two goals and my confidence is high now going into the Final.”
England took their two-goal advantage into the break but France came out in the second half with all guns blazing and pulled a goal back through Pogba’s 56th-minute header. They continued to ask questions of the England rearguard for the remainder of the half and Wickham congratulated the defensive efforts of his team-mates.
“We’ve got a solid back four and we’ve got a good goalkeeper as well. We defended really well and managed to see the game out.
“We’ve got a good team,” he continued. “We’ve got the same team that we’ve had all the way through [the qualifying campaign] and all the boys know each other and we’ve all got a good relationship. We’ve done well, so hopefully we can go into the Final and do what we do.”
Wickham came into these Finals having enjoyed a maiden season in the Ipswich Town first-team, an experience, he says, which has played a key part in his progress over the past 12 months.
“I’ve physically developed and I’ve developed mentally as a player as well. I’ve experienced what it’s like to play in the Championship and hopefully I can help the boys. [The last year has been] a bit surreal, but you’ve just got to take it in your stride and not get carried away.”