From academy hopeful to Euro finals starter, it has been a remarkable six months for AFC Wimbledon’s Josef Bursik.
The 16-year-old goalkeeper started England’s UEFA U17 European Championship opening win against Norway in Croatia, but the Young Lions were far from his thoughts when Steve Cooper’s side set out on their qualifying campaign back in October.
Bursik’s story acts not only as an inspiration to those youngsters plying their trade outside of the top flight but it’s also a reminder to all that hard work pays off in the fast-moving world of football.
- UEFA U17 Championship finals
- Group D
- 1pm BST, Sunday 6 May 2017
- Sv. Josip Radnik, Sesvete
Having caught the eye of Jack Robinson, The FA’s U15-U17 national goalkeeper coach, Bursik travelled to the Algarve Cup as a squad player, made his debut in March’s elite round qualifiers in Bosnia and now finds himself at UEFA’s showpiece youth tournament.
“It has happened so quickly and sometimes I have to take a step back and realise that it’s quite a big thing to have achieved,” reflected Bursik from the Young Lions’ base in Zagreb.
“It was a great experience in Portugal and then to go to Bosnia, make my debut and win two caps was a big thing for me. Now to be at such a big tournament is amazing.
“I’m enjoying the hype and my Twitter hasn’t stopped with supportive messages but the key now is to not get carried away, I need to stay focused.”
As one of three players in Cooper’s final 18-man squad to be representing a club outside of the Premier League, Bursik’s involvement carries a great sense of pride for everybody associated with the Dons.
He joined the EFL League One outfit as an eight-year-old before the club had reached professional ranks.
“It’s such a big thing as it really doesn’t happen at all at Wimbledon so everyone has taken pride in that. It’s credit to my coaches who have helped get me to this stage,” said Bursik, who was part of Wimbledon’s first-team squad for their goalless draw at Swindon Town last month.
“They’ve had me doing a few talks to the younger lads at the academy about the hard work I’ve put in since coming to Wimbledon when I was eight and how I’ve worked my way up to get in the England squad.
“The academy set-up has improved so much since I joined and it is great to be a part of it.”
Like many goalkeepers, Bursik’s initial footballing ambitions didn’t start between the posts.
“I signed at Wimbledon as a left winger. Being outfield when I was younger has helped me to be quite good with my feet.
“When you’re younger, everyone takes a turn in goal and I must have done alright. I moved into goal when I was 12 and it seems like it was the right decision."