From Spotland terraces to the international stage

Saturday 21 Feb 2015
Connor Ronan runs through the Portuguese defence
Having grown up worshipping Rickie Lambert from the terraces of Spotland, Connor Ronan is looking to emulate his hero by scoring for England.

The Wolves midfielder and former Rochdale season-ticket holder has just returned from Portugal with his U17s team-mates having received his first international call-up, picking up his first two England caps in the process.

England v Norway

UEFA European U17 Championship
Elite Qualifying Round
3pm, Saturday 21 March
Burton Albion
01283 565938

Despite not tasting victory at The Algarve Tournament, Ronan has enjoyed himself during his time with the Young Lions, particularly his first start in the 1-1 draw with Portugal.

“It could have gone better, but it’s been a good experience,” Ronan told

“Obviously making my debut against Holland, even though we were 5-0 down at the time, was unbelievable.

“The quality is a lot better – the standard of international football is very good. The tempo is a lot faster.”

Rickie Lambert celebrates

Lambert scored on his England debut

He continued: “I’ve learnt a lot about bouncing back after a big defeat. Getting beat 7-0 to then drawing with Portugal, who I thought we should have won but for a referee’s decision going against us, that was a good lesson.

“My aim was to get my debut and then see what happened from there. I managed to achieve that in the first game, then after that I wanted another chance to show what I could do really - I did that as well as I could against Portugal.”

And there was one person even more pleased to see Ronan wearing Three Lions than the youngster himself – his father Steven.

“He coached me when I was a kid from the age of six until I was 12,” revealed Ronan. “He’s stuck by me since then, brought me to training and all that sort of stuff, so I was glad I could reward his faith in me.

“He was very proud of me. He’d always known I could do it, and has been there for me from the start. It meant a lot to him.”

Dad Steven with Connor as a child and after his England debut

Dad Steven with Connor as a child and after his England debut

And it was his Dad who first took him Spotland as child to watch his beloved Rochdale – and that’s where the admiration for Lambert began.

“I’m a big fan of Rochdale,” he said with a smile.

“I don’t model my game on anyone, but I really used to look up to Rickie Lambert. When he was at Spotland I thought he was great, and since then he has just kept on moving up.

“He’s come from the lower levels to playing and scoring for England – hopefully that is something I can do myself and follow in his footsteps.”

England v Slovenia

UEFA European U17 Championship
Elite Qualifying Round
7pm, Monday 23rd March
Chesterfield FC
01246 488232

The England call up capped a big few months for the 16-year-old, who left home in the summer after joining Wolves, making the move to the Midlands.

He said: “It was really hard for the first few weeks. I’m living in Dunstall and I’ve really settled fast now though, and I’m really enjoying it and doing quite well.

“I’ve made an impression, and just want to keep that going until the end of the year.”

And the next chance to build on his international career will come in his new-found home region, with the Midlands playing host to England’s European U17 Championship Elite Round Qualifiers in March – something which Ronan is desperate to be involved with.

“It would be great. If I keep playing well for my club then hopefully I can get that chance.

“I go to the Wolves games when I can and the fans there tend to fill the stadium.

“There’s always a few there and they are very loud, singing all the way through the game.”

England v Romania

UEFA European U17 Championship
Elite Qualifying Round
7pm, Thursday 26th March
Burton Albion
01283 565938

Ronan added: “I’m hoping we can get a big support at each of the games. Since moving down I can see that fans within the Midlands are very passionate about their football and we would love to have them backing us.

“All my family will be there too if I’m selected, which of course helps. Then if we had a few fans that could give us that little bit of extra help to qualify.“

Tickets for England v Norway (3pm, Saturday 21 March) and their final qualifier against Romania (7pm, Thursday 26 March), both held at Burton Albion, are available online at or by calling 01283 565938.

Tickets for the Young Lions clash with Slovenia, which takes place on Monday 23 March (7pm) at Chesterfield, are available online at or by calling 01246 488232.

By Gary Stonehouse Staff Writer