U19s captain Matthew James blogs about a trip to Arromanches.
UEFA European U19 Championships
18-30 July 2010
Click here for fixtures
It was a disappointing outcome for us in the game against Holland on Wednesday and it now means that we have to beat France on Saturday, which we know will be tough but we are prepared and confident we can get the result we need.
We started very slowly in the second game and it’s hard to put your finger on why that is. Sometimes you don’t really see that coming and it’s just one of those games when it’s not your day so the best you can do is give it 110 per cent.
Holland scored a good goal early on, but I thought we came out for the second half like a totally different side. We got in their faces a little bit, had a goal disallowed and created a couple of other chances, but we were just unlucky.
It’s still pre-season for all of us though, so we came out here having not played many games. I managed to play 45 minutes for Preston just a few days before I came, but it’s still early days and we came here and did reasonably well in the first game before we started to lag a little bit.
In last season’s Finals, we had two points after two games, so we were in the same situation knowing that we had to win the last game and we did against Slovenia and went through with five points, but now we need six, so we go into Saturday’s game knowing we have to win it.
We will speak about France in the build-up and take it from there, have a look at their side and see what they play like as a team or individuals and then we’ll play accordingly to that. It’s like The FA Cup Final for us, we have to play like that and try to win the game.
We try to be positive every game, but you also don’t want to be falling behind so we’ll think about that in the preparation.
Obviously France are the home team, so that makes it slightly different. For the four of us here from last year’s Finals, where we played Ukraine twice at Shakhtar Donetsk’s ground, you know what to expect straight away and you’re under the cosh from the fans as well.
Everyone wants to try and beat England, so it’s one of those things you have to deal with. When you play in reserve games back home, it’s often just a couple of hundred that come to watch but now we’re playing for our country in a game with a couple of thousand. So it can be nerve wracking but you have to believe in your own ability and the team’s ability and take it from there.
It’s a bit different from playing with your club and you have to adapt quickly so that can be difficult, but it’s a quarter-final now.
On Thursday, we did something a bit different and as captain, I thought it was something important too as we all, players and staff, went to the village of Arromanches and one of the Normandy Beaches there.
Whilst some of the lads knew more about it than others, before we set off from the hotel, we had a bit of an introduction to it all again by watching the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan, and I can still remember it from school, learning about the War and what it meant as the country, along with the Canadians and Americans fought to bring peace and a lot of people lost their lives in those landings at the beaches in Normandy.
The scene from the film really reminded us of that just a bit more before we went there. We know it's a big part of our history as a country and people lost their lives for us and that's why we're able to be here today, playing for our country, so it really brought that home.
There aren't any relatives of mine that I know of who were involved in the war, although my family have never really spoke of it and it's maybe something to look at. I know some of the lads and staff have though, and it's quite a moving place to visit knowing that this happened 65 years ago.
Since we’ve been here I've spoken to the Doctor (Mark Williams) a few times, and he's worked in Afghanistan and has mentioned to a couple of us when we've been sat in the treatment room that the first landings were nearby and that's when we realised it was something we should try and do.
It's a massive part of our history and it's only right that we went there to pay our tributes. We might never come back to this part of France so all of us can now say that we've been here to pay our respects and remember it.
I think it was a little eerie going there at first. Just watching the film you can see how intense and heavy it was, so to try and imagine that was actually happening 65 years ago to people who are our age and younger is hard.
Of course, it's emotional and it was strange looking over from the top where the Germans were stationed and just shooting down at the boats. We were fighting an uphill battle from the start and still they kept going and broke through.
You can't imagine yourself at 16 or 17 going to fight for your country like that and coming across in a boat with friends and people you've been living and working with just getting shot in an instant right next to you.
It's an often used phrase, but we really don't realise just how lucky we are and proud of what those soldiers did for the country. It was their duty to do what they did, they had no choice and going and holding a gun is probably not what anyone wanted to do, but they went and did it and it was an eye opening thing for us all.
We definitely felt humbled by it all. When you see that scene from Saving Private Ryan, it's hard to imagine that it's the place that we've just been to so it opened a few eyes and put things into perspective for us all.
I think we were very motivated for Saturday’s game with France before we went to the beach, but now I think with everything being brought into perspective from the trip, it's added that bit extra.
So if we can get through, it will be a tribute to those who were here and that would be a great extra bit of motivation for us.
Thanks for reading,