England's Mason Holgate looks back at his 'mad few years'

Sunday 09 Oct 2016
England Under-21s defender Mason Holgate in training at St. George's Park
Mason Holgate admits he still looks back at a “mad few years” with disbelief at how his career has unfolded.

The Everton full-back made his England Under-21s debut in the win over Kazakhstan last week, to help Aidy Boothroyd’s side seal their place at next summer’s Euro Finals.

That came just over a year since he first tasted international football in a 5-0 win over Czech Republic with Keith Downing’s U20s in September 2015, after catching the eye with his first club Barnsley.

England v Bosnia & Herzegovina

UEFA European U21 Championship
Group 9 Qualifier
3pm, Tuesday 11 October 2016
Banks's Stadium, Walsall FC
Tickets all £1
Live on BT Sport

Prior to that, Doncaster-born Holgate had been with the Tykes since he was six and broke into their first-team during the 2014-15 campaign before he was on the move to Goodison Park in August 2015.

"It’s been a mad couple of years for me," admitted the 19-year-old, ahead of Tuesday’s game with Bosnia & Herzegovina in Walsall.

"I’d just moved to Everton pretty much the first time I came here [to St. George’s Park] for an international with the U20s, so the last two years have been mad, from when I was in Barnsley’s academy to being here now and playing for the U21s and Everton."

Of course, Holgate is aware that he’s following in the footsteps of another graduate from the Oakwell club’s academy in England defender John Stones, who moved on from Everton to Manchester City this year having arrived at Goodison Park from the South Yorkshire club in 2013.

But he's keen to carve out his own reputation for both club and country without the added pressure of the obvious comparisons that are sure to come his way.

"Everyone’s going to make that comparison, because we came from the same place and followed the same path," he admits.

"Obviously, he’s gone on to do a lot but I’m just concentrating on myself and I just want to keep doing well.

England Under-21s line-up to face Kazakhstan in Aktobe

Holgate (back row, second from right) made his debut for the U21s in their 1-0 win over Kazakhstan in Aktobe

"It’s been a good start to the season for me, and hopefully it’ll carry on."

As Holgate alluded to, this term has also seen him make his first-team debut for Everton and it was his early-season form which saw him included in the U21s squad for last month’s game with Norway before he made his bow in Aktobe, a memorable occasion for any player

"It’s massive for me, making my U21s debut and a proud moment for me," he admits.

"The lads had already done all the hard work of getting into the position of needing just a win to qualify for the Euros.

"But coming into it late, I’ve felt welcomed by the group and it was quite easy for me.

"It was a bit intimidating [in Aktobe] at first, with the police surrounding the pitch, but it was one of those games that you’re expected to win and if you don’t people will look at you.

"And it was a tough game, but I thought we controlled it well and got the result we were looking for."

Mason Holgate prepares for his England Under-21s debut in Aktobe, Kazakhstan

Holgate preparing for his England Under-21s debut in Aktobe

With the 1-0 win in Kazakhstan enough to reserve the Young Lions a spot at the competition in Poland next July with a game to spare, attention in the squad is already turning towards the Finals.

That starts with Tuesday’s game in Walsall, with every player knowing that they’re now looking to stake a claim for a spot in every squad between now and then.

"We want to finish top of group and keep doing as well as we can," he revealed. 

"Every game is there to be won and we have a good squad so everyone is confident.

"There’s a lot of competition for places so all you can do is wait to get your chance and then hopefully something will come of it and you can stay in the team.

"So we want to finish the group with another good win on Tuesday."

Tickets for Tuesday’s game cost just £1 and are on sale via Walsall FC’s ticket office. Click here for more details on how you can be at the Banks’s Stadium for the game.

See FATV's pitchside highlights from the game in Kazakhstan

 


By Nicholas Veevers