By Nicholas Veevers
Thursday, 24 May, 2012
Sam Johnstone ready for return to venue where his father played.
UEFA European U19 Championship
Elite Qualifying Round
25-30 May 2012
England, Montenegro, Slovenia, Switzerland
Deepdale, Preston & Spotland, Rochdale
Ticket line 0844 856 1966 (Preston) and 0844 826 1907 (Rochdale)
England U19s open their Elite Qualifying Round games on Friday evening when they face Slovenia at Deepdale and with the first game of any group stage being vitally important to both sides, for one member of the Young Lions squad the match will also complete something of a family connection.
Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone grew up in Leyland, just outside Preston, so this week’s games are more than handy for his family and friends.
But the two games at Deepdale will take on more of a meaning for him as Johnstone’s father Glenn was once on the books of North End in the early 1990s and this will be the first time Sam has stepped out at the famous venue.
“It’s always good to come away and play for your country, no matter what age and hopefully I’ll play on Friday,” said Johnstone, who has been with Manchester United since he was ten-years-old.
“I’ve never played there before, but I’ve been a few times to watch games so it’s familiar and it’s not far from where I live so I’m looking forward to it.
“My family live in Leyland and I grew up there before I moved down to Manchester, so I pop back every now and again.
“My dad had a short spell there, under John Beck so there is a bit of a connection and he’ll be coming to watch.
“My dad tells me stories about his time there, but I was too young to go and watch at the time. I still hear about the club though, so we know what’s going on.
“It’s a nice stadium and it holds quite a lot so hopefully a lot of fans will come and support us.
“I’ve certainly got a long list to look after, but the support can only help us on the pitch.”
Glenn himself is also looking forward to his return to Deepdale, especially to see his son in action for England.
"I'm proud of him, I enjoy watching Sam play and we always have a chat after games about how things went,” said Johnstone Senior.
"He's been in the England set-up since the U16s and has gone from there and has been handled well by them.
"They gave him the experience of playing at the age group above a couple of years ago, before bringing him back."
"It's a long time since I played for Preston, but I've got some decent memories.
"The knee I injured in 1993 is absolutely gone now, so my involvement in football is limited to helping out a local side.
"I hadn't been to Deepdale for a long time until March when Sam and myself went to watch Preston's goalless draw against Scunthorpe.”
Sam is also in confident mood ahead of the three games, having worked well with his squad mates since reporting for duty and enjoyed an unbeaten run with the U19s over the course of the season.
“Preparations have been good,” he said. “We met up on Saturday and we’ve been training every day since.
“A few of the lads finished their season early, so some of them have needed it and we’re getting there.
“This group has been together for quite a few years so we all know what the schedule is and it’s been good.”
Tickets for Friday's game cost just £3 for adults and £1 for concessions. Call 0844 856 1966 or pay on the night.