England U21s captain Joe Gomez has spoken of the character-building process he underwent during his recovery from a serious injury sustained with the Young Lions.
The Liverpool defender, named as boss Aidy Boothroyd’s new skipper for the 2019 Euro campaign, suffered a cruciate knee injury in the late stages of a win over Kazakhstan in Coventry in October 2015.
Having only just made his Anfield debut after joining the Reds from Charlton Athletic at the time, it brought his rapid rise and progress to an instant halt, with the injury ruling him out for over a year.
- UEFA European U21 Championship
- Qualifying Group 4
- 7.45pm, Tuesday 5 September 2017
- Vitality Stadium, AFC Bournemouth
- Tickets cost £10/£5
And as he now aims to lead the new batch of U21s into their qualifying campaign for the next Euro Finals in Italy and San Marino, he revealed how much the set-back forced him to approach his career and life in a different way.
“It was probably the first time I had a real dip and it was a big learning curve for me to not get too high with the highs or low with the lows,” he explained.
“Not that I didn’t see myself as a humble person but it was a humbling experience. It can get taken away from you in a flash.
“It was a challenge, it was a year out. You’ve got to appreciate things like this and playing at this level can’t be taken lightly.
“It’s easy to start feeling sorry for yourself. You have that initially, but it’s nice for me now to be back playing at this level. It means a lot to me.
“When I started playing at Charlton, moved to Liverpool and then made my debut in the Premier League and getting some games, being picked for the U21s was massive for me.
“I definitely appreciate everything now, from training to games. With these boys, it’s such a talented group. It’s a chance to win something and you’ve got to appreciate that.
“That’s one thing I want to stress. It’s a massive thing playing for England, from the Victory Shield all the way through.
“It’s got to be appreciated and taken with a lot of pride. It’s nice to be back here.”
The Lewisham-born defender is now back with his natural age group for the first time since 2014, when they won the U17 Euro title in Malta.
And he admits it’s good to link up with so many familiar faces, most of which went on to reach the U19 Euro semi-final in 2016 and then win the U20 World Cup earlier this summer without Gomez.
“There’s been a lot of success in this group,” he said.
“From the U17s going through, there’s been experience and success with this year group.
“We didn’t quite manage to do it at the U19 Euros, but the U20s won the World Cup in the summer.
“It’s a challenge again and I don’t think that fazes any of us, it gives confidence for the whole team. It’s about being mentally strong.
“You can feel it within the team, there’s a good intensity around the place and confidence.
“The hunger is the same. Everyone has the desire to play for England, the belief naturally with performing and achieving brings more.”
Tickets for Tuesday’s game with Latvia at AFC Bournemouth on Tuesday cost just £10 for adults and £5 for concessions via the ticket office at the Vitality Stadium.