Young Lions captain Matty James provides his first blog from France.
We’re all looking forward to the start of the competition now. The group have been together for six days and after a while you just want to start playing, so we’re all really excited for the game on Sunday.
As soon as the games kick-off tomorrow, all of the lads will be buzzing and if we can get our first win, or at least a result against Austria, we can then move on to the next match.
However, whilst we are all raring to go and get into the matches, it’s also important to be controlled and disciplined with that keenness. We had training yesterday for the first time since we got to France and some of the lads were really going for it, so we have to be careful and just make sure we take that kind of spirit into the game on Sunday night.
I was lucky enough to experience the European U19 Championship Finals last season, but for most of the lads here, it is a new experience. The routine has been largely the same as the last year, with all of the four teams in our group staying in the same hotel. I have to say though, it’s a nicer hotel and place here in Caen than where we were in Ukraine last year which always helps, but we’re here to train and get ready for the games now so it’s just the same for us really.
As soon as the matches kick-off, you find that it all goes by quite quickly as you have three games in the space of six days. You’ve got to try and get the results on the day to give yourself a better chance of progressing so a win to start with is the obvious aim.
I joined up with the squad on Wednesday afternoon, a few days later than most of the lads, as I’d been away to Spain on a pre-season training trip with Preston North End, where I will be on loan next season.
It was good too, it certainly got me feeling quite fit and I was there for seven days working really hard, but now I’m back and focused on being an England U19 player for the next two weeks hopefully.
Compared to last year, it was a different sort of preparation for the Euros for me as I was away with a first team group as opposed to the reserves at Manchester United. With a first team squad, you’re playing for your place whereas for the reserves, the season doesn’t even kick-off until September, so you’ve still got a while to prepare and the same intensity isn’t there.
I knew I was coming away with the U19s all along too, so it was extra important for me to get myself fit over in Marbella and it was a good thing to go there before coming here.
A lot of the lads are aware of the increased media attention that we’ve had in the build-up to this tournament. It’s been featured in a lot of the newspapers back home and on Sky Sports News, but I suppose it is a bit different because of what happened in the World Cup.
The way I look at it is that the more we get of that now, the more experience we will have for later. It’s certainly not affecting any of the lads here though, we’re just going to go out there and play and I’m sure we can get the results.
We start against Austria on Sunday and out of the three teams we’re playing here in the group round, they’re probably the team we know the least about. I’ve certainly never come across them before whilst playing for England, but they’ll be very similar to a lot of the eastern European teams and we’ve played plenty of those over the last few years and even as recently as May when we played Ukraine and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Elite Round.
I would imagine we’ll get quite a lot of support from back home and there’ll be a lot of eyes watching the game because of the media attention surrounding this tournament and with it being live on Eurosport. It’s good for your friends and family so they can watch it and keep in touch, but being on television doesn’t make a difference to us, we’ll just go out there to win each game and see how far it can take us.
Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below.