James Ward-Prowse has spoken of his pride after captaining England’s Under-19 side for the first time last night.
The Saints midfielder was handed the armband for the Young Lions’ friendly against Turkey in Telford after regular skipper John Lundstram pulled out through injury.
“It was an experience I’ve always wanted,” Ward-Prowse exclusively told Saints Player today after returning to Southampton in the early hours of this morning.
“It’s always an honour to play for your country at any level, and to get the captain’s armband and do it in my own country was a really good experience.
“The normal captain of the group went home injured, so I had an inkling that I potentially could be captain.
“The manager said that there were three-or-four candidates, but he pulled me to a side on the morning of the game to tell me it’d be me.
“It was a really good moment to be told that I was going to be able to lead my country out.
“I’ve always thought that I am quite good captain-material, and people have often said that to me,” added the 18-year-old. “To finally get the armband was really good, and it helped my game.
“I didn’t really change much about my preparation, but during the game I was a lot more vocal because I felt like I had to lead a bit more.
“Tony Adams was with us during the course of the week as we prepared for the game.
“He’s a former England and Arsenal captain, and [knowing] how he went about his game helped me in my role as captain.”
There was further good news for the Club from Telford, with our second representative in the squad – utility man Calum Chambers – scoring the game’s only goal from right-back just after the half-hour mark.
“He pops up with the odd goal!” Ward-Prowse said of his teammate’s influence on the game. “I think we did the Club proud last night, with me as captain and Calum getting a goal.
“I was really pleased for him because we had a really good week together, and we got our rewards at the end of it.
“There are a couple of good friends I’ve met [with England] such as Eric Dier from Sporting Lisbon, who I shared a room with,” added James.
“You’ve always got to stick with your mates, though – I’ve known Cal since I was seven-or-eight.
“You’ve got to make the most of it when you are away with England, so I stick with him because we really enjoy our time together.”
Southampton also had a player involved for England at under-21 level last night, with Nathaniel Clyne featuring in a three-nil win over Romania in Wycombe.
Luke Shaw had also been named in Stuart Pearce’s squad but withdrew through injury, and Ward-Prowse is hoping that he can join his two teammates in stepping up into the Under-21 side in the near future.
“[An Under-21 call-up] was a target of mine at the beginning of the season, and it’s still a possibility,” he said.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve made the coaches at under-19 level aware of that. I’m doing my best to impress Stuart Pearce and to get into the squad.”
Being handed the England captaincy is just another step in what has been an incredible year for young Ward-Prowse.
He made his league debut as a starter in the season-opening game at Manchester City, and has since racked up a further 15 First Team appearances so far in the current campaign.
“I can’t describe it,” James beamed as he looked back over the past ten months. “If you’d said this time last year that I would have done what I have, I’d have taken it.
“I’ve played in the Premier League – the biggest league in the world – against the best players in the world, at the best grounds in the world and now I’ve captained my country.
“I’m where I wanted to be. It’s been unreal, but it’s not over yet so hopefully we’ve got a bit more to come.”
There have been low points, though. His substitute appearance against Arsenal on New Year’s Day was his first in over two months, following a spell out of First Team contention.
“At the start of the season I just wanted to be involved in any way I could, even if I just travelled up to watch games,” he admitted.
“But to have been involved and then be taken away was really frustrating. People kept reminding me of my age and the stage I was at but, to me, age doesn’t matter.
“I’ve had experience of the Premier League and I want to carry it on, so I’m not happy to just sit on the bench and come on for 10 minutes.
“I want to be starting every week, so it’s challenging all the time – but it’s a challenge that we as a group of youngsters are embracing.
“It’s hard at the moment because Corky and Morgan have been unbelievable in the middle of the park – they’ve been instrumental so it’s been hard to get in.
“The three of us have done a lot of work together around the different patterns that the manager wants us to do, so to train with them and learn off them has been really good.
“There’s always competition but I feel if I can get a good run of form going then maybe I could sneak in. I am just happy to be involved in any way I can.”