Harry Lewis prepares to be part of England U18s taking on ItalyThe two goalkeepers involved with England U18s are riding a crest of emotions as they prepare to face Italy on Wednesday.
Freddie Woodman was named as captain by head coach Neil Dewsnip on Monday for the Young Lions trip to Caorle in northern Italy, with deputy shot-stopper Harry Lewis just loving every second of his first taste of international football.
The skipper has had the honour of leading his country once before, but Woodman says the second time is just as sweet.
“It’s amazing really,” said Woodman, who was keeper for European U17s Championship win back in May. “I was captain for the U16s against Germany, and to get it again is amazing – a dream come true. It’s a bit of a cliche but it means everything to me.
“I try to act like a captain whenever I come away and be a leader on the pitch, now I’ve got the armband and it feels great.”
And he added that he’s targeting a winning reign while leading the Lions.
“We’ve played Italy as a group in the past, and they are always strong and tough. We haven’t come here thinking it will be easy, we’ve got to stay strong and get a good shape – and if we can do that we know that with the attackers we have we can always score goals.”
The 17-year-old is a keen studier of the game, and it is somewhat fitting that he should wear the armband in the country of one of his idols – Italian captain Gianluigi Buffon.
“I’ve watched Buffon for ages and he is one of the very best. He’s been around so long and he’s top drawer,” he enthused.
“He’s a great example for any young goalkeeper and he’s one of many that I study.
“It’s good to see managers giving the armbands to keepers – there’s a few now. Iker Casillas, Manuel Neuer has been captain as well as Buffon. It doesn’t happen a lot in the Premier League, but those are some great examples of top professionals and role models.”
Woodman joined Hartlepool United last week on a one-month loan deal from Newcastle United, and having been on the bench for Pools’ last two matches at Northampton Town and Plymouth Argyle, he says he can already feel the impact the move is having on his development.
“It’s very different to what I’ve been used too. To train and be involved with men’s football has really helped me learn and grow stronger even just being a part of the club for a week.
He continued: “I had to gain the respect of the players. Obviously I’m a young lad going into their squad. It’s a lot stronger and quicker than youth football, and they are all strong characters.
“So I’ve got to be strong myself, both physically and mentally and I can feel myself improving with each day I’m there. Although the first two results have not been great, I’m looking forward to a good month away with them.”
As Woodman prepares to lead out the side at Stadio Giovanni Chiggiato, his fellow shotstopper Harry Lewis is still getting used to the “incredible feeling” of pulling on the Three Lions.
The 16-year-old has seen his form for Shrewsbury Town rewarded with his first call-up for England.
Having enjoyed his first two days with the squad, he tried to put his emotions into words for TheFA.com.
“It’s been crazy and such a surreal experience. The lads have been welcoming and helped me settle in really well," he said.
“I’d been to a couple of The FA’s goalkeeping camps, but the call-up came right out of the blue. I was told straight after playing in a game, and it took about a week to sink in.
“It gives you such a lift to be wearing the Three Lions on your shirt – it’s an incredible feeling,” he continued.
“It’s unbelievable just to be here, and even if I don’t get any game time on Wednesday, it’s a massive step in the right direction for me to be involved with England.
“Getting yourself into your first squad, it gets your name in there, so although I’m really happy to be here, I want to impress in training and work hard to be involved again.”
With one member of his family already a club legend, Lewis is aiming to follow in the footsteps of those goalkeepers before him at his hometown Shrews.
“My granddad, Ken Mulhearn, won the league as goalie for Manchester City, and played for Everton and he is also in Shrewsbury’s hall of fame,” explained Lewis.
“He was massively proud when I got the call-up. He tries not to give me any tips really, and keeps in the background to be honest – but he was speechless when he found out about England. He congratulated me, but he could hardly speak and had tears in his eyes.”
Lewis added: “I’m a Shrewsbury lad, so one of my main aims is to keep working hard to be able to represent the club’s first-team – and try to keep being involved with the national side.
“We’ve had Joe Hart and Callum Burton, who has played for the U18s, so the club has done well with goalkeepers. I don’t know what it is about the place – it’s a bit of a hotspot.”