Marcus Dewhurst starts with an admission.
“Doing interviews makes me nervous. More nervous than playing a game. If I say something wrong then I might get into trouble and that’s definitely something I don’t want.”
Dewhurst has no need to worry. Nor, for that matter, does his chaperone from the England under-17’s media team. The Sheffield United goalkeeper, who will tomorrow try and help Steven Cooper’s squad reach the final of UEFA’s European Championships, handles questions the same way he does shots; coolly, calmly and with impressive ease.
“It’s all part of the learning process,” Dewhurst continues. “Doing things like this. If you want to go on in the game then you’ll probably end up doing a fair bit of media. But, I’m not going to lie, it still feels a bit strange. Although I suppose that’s a good thing.”
Chris Wilder, Dewhurst’s manager at Sheffield United, will enthusiastically agree having argued midway through last season that young players who get comfortable make slow, if any, progress. Which probably explains why the teenager can call himself an international only three years after pulling on his first pair of gloves. Dewhurst, who enrolled on the Steelphalt Academy youth programme following a spell with his hometown club Hull City, was an aspiring young striker before concluding he was better suited to life between the posts. It proved an inspired decision and one which, after recently signing his first professional contract, could also deliver a starting place against the Netherlands at Chesterfield’s Proact Stadium.
“It’s been a brilliant experience, being a part of this tournament,” Dewhurst says. “I know I’m going to come back to United a better player for it because I’m learning all the time. Being away with the group, because we’re based at St George’s Park, is different. Being in camp for so long is not something that I’ve been used to before. But that’s good because you’ve always got to push yourself. If you don’t, then you won’t get better or learn new things.”
“Obviously the quality of the lads around me is really high and the same goes for the opposition,” he adds. “Preparing to face the different styles other countries helps to improve your overall knowledge.”
England, who advanced through the group stage following wins over Israel and Italy, set up their meeting with Kees Van Wonderen’s side by beating Norway on Sunday.
“The amount of interest the competition has generated is something else,” Dewhurst says. “We’ve been getting six thousand crowds, the biggest most of us have even played in front of, and that also makes you better because it teaches you how to cope. The number of people coming to watch reminds you how special this is. It’s really important. You know before hand but the attendance really hammers that home.”
Despite the competition’s prestige, Dewhurst learned of his involvement without fuss or fanfare.
“I was back home, in a park with my mates, when an email came through on my phone. The coaches at United rang to say ‘well done’ and then I rushed home to tell my family. They’ve been coming to the games.”
*Tickets for tomorrow’s UEFA U17 Championship semi-final, which kicks-off at 7pm, are priced £1.