Midfielder wants a more successful trip to Ukraine this year.
UEFA European U19 Championship
Elite Qualifying Round
26-31 May 2010
Click here for fixtures
By Nicholas Veevers
Matthew James heads out to Ukraine today hoping that he will return on the back of a better outcome than the last time he visited the eastern European nation.
The Manchester United midfielder was part of the England U19 squad which travelled to Donetsk last July for the European Championship Finals, but after playing in the first two group games, he had to withdraw from the squad through injury and missed the team’s run to the Final.
Unfortunately, Brian Eastick’s team lost against their hosts in that Final but they now have chance to take some sort of revenge in the Elite Round next week.
Now under the charge of Noel Blake, the Young Lions are in a group with Ukraine, Republic Of Ireland and Bosnia-Herzegovina and know that only the team who finishes top after three games will head to this year’s Finals in France.
That’s a challenge which the U19s have met in the last two years, but having experienced Ukraine less than a year ago, James knows it won’t be easy.
“It’s a different way of life in Ukraine and a different culture, so we’re going there and will need to be ready for that change,” he told TheFA.com.
“When we went there last year, I ended up coming home early unfortunately, but hopefully I will be able to play the full tournament this time.
“It’s a tough group, but if we play well like we all know we can do, then I think we can have no problem in getting to the Finals in France.”
After featuring in last year’s Elite Round and Finals, James is one of the squad’s more experienced members at U19 level and also had the honour of captaining the team against Russia last September.
It was yet another accolade for a player who has also represented England at U16, U17 and U20 level as well as impressing in the Championship whilst on loan with Preston North End last season.
“I captained the side and it was a great honour,” he admitted.
“To do that at any level is fantastic and I’ve done it for the U17s and the U19s, so for me personally, it’s great to see that I’m still in the eyes of the England staff.
“They must think I’m doing a good job, but you’ve just got to keep playing the way you can every single week.
“But you can’t change the way you play just because you’re the captain. There are still some very good players involved who can all have a big impact on the game.”
This year will be James’ last chance to play for the U19s, but if he can continue to impress and push on at domestic level, he’s more than keen to try and make the next step into Stuart Pearce’s Under-21 squad.
“Hopefully if I can do well over the next few months and start the new season quite well, I can try and push on into the Under-21s,” he added.
“But for the minute, I need to concentrate on the U19s and do as well as I can for them.”
England’s first game is on Wednesday afternoon, when they face Republic Of Ireland in Kiev.