Ryan's Reykjavik return
By Jamie Bradbury in Reykjavik
Wednesday, 05 October, 2011
Peterborough defender is aiming for more success in Iceland with U21s.
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Sitting down on the fifth floor of the Hilton Hotel, shortly after arriving in Reykjavik, and over-looking the city and the national stadium where England Under-21s will meet Iceland in their Euro 2013 Qualifier on Thursday night, Ryan Bennett is already in familiar territory.
“Is that where we’re playing?” said the 21-year-old Peterborough United defender pointing to the Laugardalsvöllur Stadium. “I’ve played there before.”
Having joined up with Stuart Pearce’s side for the first time only 24 hours earlier, Bennett is confident and thoughtful as he recalls his journey from Ipswich Town’s youth team to Peterborough and the England Under-21s set-up.
And it was with Ipswich that he last stepped on these volcanic shores, coming away with the spoils in a friendly tournament.
“We stayed somewhere round here, a little hostel and there was about 17 of us in one room all on little foam mattresses,” recalled Bennett, who grew up in Orsett in Essex. “I can’t even remember how old I was at the time, but I know we beat Cambridge in the Final.”
However, after his scholarship came to an end he was released by the Portman Road club but was soon offered an opportunity in League Two with Grimsby Town, first with their youth team and before too long he was captain of the first team.
“I moved there straight from school and my landlady was brilliant, she made it feel like home and it helped me settle really well,” said Bennett. “Within six months I was training regularly with the first team, getting to know the situation. Then I started playing and by the time I was 17 I was captain of the team until I left to join Peterborough.
“I was never one to go out with the boys, so moving away made me think about football 24/7, which is something I didn’t do perhaps when I was at Ipswich. Going to Grimsby gave me the chance to train everyday and maybe reflect on things a little when I was sitting in digs.
“I know it’s an old cliché but you sometimes don’t realise what you’ve got until it’s gone. I was able to sit back and deal with things when I got released from Ipswich and turn it in to a positive. I think any young player has to try and do that too.”
In 2009, Bennett made a switch heading back south to link up with Peterborough United, where he has gone on to make over 75 first-team appearances.
“The transition from youth team to League Two wasn’t as tough as I thought," admitted the 6'2'' central defender, "the Championship is much more physical and I’m sure if you step into the Prem it’s even moreso.”
“I was only 19 at the time and went straight into the Championship. I found it hard to start with and I was disappointed with that. When Darren Ferguson came back he gave me my spot back and I’m playing with confidence again.
I’ve played my best football under Darren and he seems to get the best out of you. We have a lot of young players at Peterborough and I don’t think you could get a better manager for them than Darren Ferguson.
“Training is sharp, it’s like a matchday everyday. He won’t let anyone slack and makes sure everyone is on it all the time. There are no favourites and we have a great togetherness.”
And this week Bennett, who is away from his 14-week-old son for the first time, has enjoyed his return to the England fold after making his only appearance for the Three Lions in an U18s match against Austria in 2008.
“Training’s been great. Our training at Peterborough is very sharp but some of these players play for top Premier League clubs and it shows.
“It was exciting when I got the call up, but when I found out it was in the build up to our game on Saturday, so I couldn’t really think about it until our game was over. I then spent Sunday with my son and then we joined up.
“Stuart Pearce sat me down when we got to Iceland and asked me about my background from Ipswich to Peterborough, and no one has ever asked me things like that before.
"He told me about himself and about how he used to train and play, talked to me about my strengths and weaknesses and it’s what you want to hear. There are things I can work on and help me become a better player.”
He added: “I’ve seen Iceland play before and I also know that we lost 2-1 to them in a friendly in March. We know it’s going to be a tough game, one of the hardest in the group, but when you look at our squad they will be fearful of us.
“I’m sure if we go out, do what we’ve been working on and stick together then I’m sure we can take the best situation out of the two games we have. I just want to do my best, get the experience and see where it will take me from here.”
And you sense that it's really down to him how far he goes.
For tickets for England's next home game against Iceland at Colchester United on 10 November, click here for ticket details.