Southampton defender Jack Stephens says being a part of England Under-21s’ triumph in the Toulon Tournament was an ‘unbelievable’ feeling.
Stephens played in three matches including Sunday’s final win over France in Avignon where he helped the Young Lions see out the game in its closing stages as Gareth Southgate’s side triumphed 2-1.
The Saints man who spent much of the season out on loan, was delighted to see the young squad’s efforts over the past fortnight get the rewards they deserved.
“Going into the tournament we always wanted to win it, but to actually do it is unbelievable and a brilliant achievement by the whole squad and a fantastic way to end the season,” Stephens told saintsfc.co.uk
“I played against Guinea and Japan in the group stage but then to get on in the final was just the icing on the cake.
“Being a defender on the bench I didn’t really expect to get on, but to play for the last couple of minutes was brilliant, I loved every minute of it and then to win it was unbelievable.”
Stephens was joined in the squad by fellow Saints Matt Targett and James Ward-Prowse, while former teammate Calum Chambers was also involved in the successful young England squad.
“Having four Southampton academy graduates in the squad is a brilliant achievement and we all get on really well,” Stephens highlighted.
“It’s not just us four though, it was the whole squad and there was a real good group of lads with everyone pushing together. You couldn’t ask for a better group of lads.”
The defender also paid tribute to captain Ward-Prowse and says it’s proof of how good the youth development at Southampton is.
“I’ve known Prowsey now for a few years and he’s a really good mate of mine now,” said Stephend. “We get on really well so to have him in the squad and as captain is massive for Saints and I know it’s something he’s very proud of and rightly so. He’s a great captain and an even nicer lad, so he’s been perfect.
“The set up at Saints has been brilliant and that shows in having four lads from the academy in the England Under-21s squad, so it just goes to show the strength of Southampton’s academy and the great work that all the coaches and all the people behind the scenes do.
“I think everyone at Southampton can be proud that we are getting people on the international stage and into the first team.”
England’s latest success is one that Stephens will cherish, with Sunday’s achievement the first win in that tournament since 1994, the year that Stephens was born, so he’s knows the size of the achievement.
“I thought we were always in control of the game and never looked in any danger but when you concede with five minutes to go you start to think maybe there’s going to be one more chance for them, but we managed to hold on and defended really well for the last five minutes and it was brilliant to hold on,” he explained.
“It’s brilliant to win because England don’t tend to have too much luck in tournaments and we haven’t won many over the years, so we definitely enjoyed that one and you’ve got to make the most of it because you don’t known when the next one is going to come.”