'Lads like me from West Derby don't play at World Cups'

Sunday 17 May 2015
Liverpool and England U17s midfielder Trent Arnold
Trent Arnold grew up pretending to be Steven Gerrard while playing football in the parks of Merseyside, but now he has the chance to emulate his hero by representing England at a World Cup.

The Liverpool youngster is in Bulgaria as part of John Peacock’s squad that was eliminated from the European U17 Championship by Russia on Saturday – but their World Cup hopes are still alive and kicking despite the setback.

England face fellow losing quarter-finalists Spain in a Play-Off match on Tuesday. The winner will secure a spot at the showpiece tournament in Chile in October.

Spain v England

FIFA Under-17s World Cup
Play-off match
2pm, Sliven, Bulgaria
Tuesday 19 May 2015

“I can’t really get my head around how big this opportunity is at the moment,” Arnold told TheFA.com at the team hotel in Pomorie.

“I’m from West Derby in Liverpool, and I don’t know anybody else from my area that has played at a World Cup. It just doesn’t happen to lads like me. I’ll be trying so hard to get there - it would be an unforgettable experience.”

He continued: “I played for Country Park in the Walton and Kirkdale League. The first World Cup I can remember is in 2006 when Italy won it. To play in a tournament like that at youth level would be amazing.

“I always used to pretend to be Stevie G when I was playing as a kid as he is a scouser. Everyone looks up to him – I don’t think there is any footballer that doesn’t recognise his talent and what he has done for his club and country at World Cups. Now I might get that chance.”

The past fortnight at the Euros has been a huge learning curve for the 16-year-old.

He came off the bench in the opening game before starting and impressing in midfield against Holland. Unfortunately for Arnold he then picked up an injury in training that ruled him out of the final group match against Republic of Ireland and he was an unused sub for the quarter-final loss.

Trent Arnold and his Liverpool club-mate Herbie Kane at England Training

“It has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Being on the sidelines has allowed me to sit and watch, and it has showed me what I need to improve on. If I came on I’d want to make a difference, and I suppose it has allowed me to analyse the matches.

“But you need to be clinical at these tournaments, that’s the biggest thing I’ve learnt. We’ve only scored three times, and the games have been so tight, so that shows you need to be clinical in both defence and attack.”

A tough Spain outfit stand between Arnold and his World Cup dream, but despite the disappointment of exiting the Euros, he has belief that he and his team-mates can come out on top in the crunch clash.

“They are a strong side, but if we push on from Russia and learn from it, then we are confident we can get the result against Spain and reach Chile.

“We do not fear them but we know they will be a top team. They don’t change their style for any opposition and they’ll play their football – that’s what we need to deal with. We will need to concentrate a lot, makes sure we don’t make any silly decisions and keep all eleven men on the pitch.

“We have to keep it tight and solid, not concede any early goals and we have to take our chances.”

England Under-17s face Spain at 2pm on Tuesday. Follow @England on Twitter for updates from the clash.

By Gary Stonehouse Staff Writer in Pomorie, Bulgaria