'I'm proud of Italian roots but England means the world'

Wednesday 06 May 2015
Danny Collinge has been a regular for England U17s this season
Matches between England and Italy always have somewhat of a special feel, but for Danny Collinge, the Under-17s' opening Euro clash against the Azzurri will mean that little bit more.

The Stuttgart defender is in Bulgaria with John Peacock’s Young Lions squad preparing to kick-off their European Championship tournament in Lazur on Thursday.

Opening matches are always emotional affairs as both sides are full of dreams of glory, but if he can help England to victory, Collinge may feel the wrath of his family.

Italy v England

UEFA European U17 Championship
Group D
5pm, Thursday 7 May 2015
Lazur, Burgas, Bulgaria
Live on Eurosport

"My mother is from Italy so I’m half Italian," revealed Collinge. "I have family living in Italy and I go out there to visit them quite often.

"They are from northern Italy, the Dolomites in the mountains, it’s about a two-hour drive from Venice. I spend a lot of my holidays there, going skiing in the winter and enjoying the sunny beaches in the summer – I enjoy the food too.

“I love Italy, it is a big part of me and makes up a lot of my values and the ethics of the type of person I want to be."

Although he is extremely proud of his Italian roots, he says once he crosses the white line there will be question where his loyalty lies.

"I’ve been brought up playing football for clubs in England, I have an English philosophy and I feel it’s only right that I play for England – and above everything else, I want to.

"When I played against Italy back in August, and the anthems were playing, that got me a little bit. I remember watching Italy in the World Cup in 2006 as a child with my family and when I heard their anthem it reminded me of that.

"But once the game starts, that Three Lions badge means the world to me, and I want to do everything and anything to win the game – that’ll be exactly the same on Thursday."

He continued: "Matches against Italy are always special anyway. They are unlike any other team as they have their own style. We’ve been doing our work to try and counter that and exploit their weaknesses.

"So it’s a tough opening game, but to win any tournament you have to beat the best teams and that’s exactly what we’ll be looking to do."

Collinge and his team-mates arrived in Pomorie on Sunday evening and have been acclimitasing themselves with their surroundings at the team hotel and on the training pitch over the past few days.

"We’ve settled in well. We are staying in a lovely hotel, everything we need is catered for and we are able to really focus on the job in hand.

"Training has been good and we have acclimatised to the conditions, which is always important, and we are looking forward to get started now."

England U17s defender Danny Collinge.

Danny's official profile shot for the Euro Finals in Bulgaria

And it’s not the just the prospect of facing Italy that has whet the appetite of the former MK Dons man – he says the whole squad are ready to embrace their first taste of international competition.

"We are all excited and it is our first experience of a big European tournament. It’s a big opportunity that we are all relishing," he added.

"I’m sure there will be some nerves as we arrive at the stadium, but I think the boys are experienced enough to handle that having played in big games for their club's youth teams."

England U17s’ opening European Championship match with Italy will be live on Eurosport, kick-off 5pm UK time, on Thursday 7 May.

You can keep updated with all the latest news from the camp in Bulgaria by following @England on Twitter.

By Gary Stonehouse Staff Writer in Pomorie, Bulgaria