Exeter City youngster Matt Grimes says his first international call-up will act as an inspiration to all youth players plying their trade outside the country’s elite clubs.
Grimes has featured in League Two side Exeter’s first team 39 times since making his professional debut in August 2013, just one month after his 18th birthday.
The midfielder has been with Aidy Boothroyd’s U20s at St. George’s Park all week as the squad prepare to take on Romania in Telford.
He is also joined in the squad by fellow Grecian first-team regular Christy Pym, who, at the age of 19, has established himself as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper.
England v Romania
U20 International Match
7.30pm, Friday 5 September 2014
New Bucks Head Stadium, AFC Telford United
Call 01952 640064 for tickets
And Grimes says the fact that the national team’s scouting network is prepared to cast its net further afield than the top divisions, can only be a positive.
“I think that it’s a great thing that I’ve been called away, especially playing for Exeter,” he said.
“I know all these lads are mostly at Premier League or Championship clubs, and maybe that makes it easier for them to get spotted.
“But that myself and Christy have been called up is a great thing.
“But it’s not just about us – it will also be a massive boost for the lads younger than us have got a lot of talent because they will look at this and know that it is possible for them to do the same, no matter what division they are playing in.”
(l-r) Christy Pym, Rolando Aarons, Matt Grimes and Josh Harrop were presented with their first England shirts
Grimes has been with the U20s since Sunday as they prepare for their season opener, and the youngster admits the reality of the situation did not truly sink in until he passed through the gates of the National Football Centre.
“My first reaction was shock really,” he said, as he recalled the moment he found out he was to become an international footballer.
“I got called into the manager’s office after training a couple of days before, and he told me that I was getting called up with Christy.
“Obviously it was a massive thing and I was completely taken aback by it. I don’t think it really sunk in until I arrived at St. George’s Park and met everyone.
“There were a couple of rumours that people from the England set-up were coming to watch my games, but nothing concrete so I just took it with a pinch of salt really and tried not to think about it too much. So when it came along it really was a bolt from the blue.”
“It would be a massive thing for me and my family, and obviously all the academy staff at Exeter”
Exeter’s duo of internationals has been big news in the historic Devon town. Indeed, Grimes says he is aware of the fact that there might be one or two familiar faces in the crowd.
“I think they’re bringing a supporters coach up and they’ve filled that, so you can expect to see a few people from the south-west at the game,” he continued.
“I’ve also got my mum, dad, little brother and my grandad all making the trip.
“If I do get the chance to play I can imagine my overriding emotion will be pride.
“It would be a massive thing for me and my family, and obviously all the academy staff at Exeter – to see a young player like me come through the ranks and go on to play for England, I think it would be a massively proud moment.”
England U20 squad to play Romania
Goalkeepers: Christy Pym (Exeter City), Christian Walton (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Defenders: Dominic Ball (Tottenham Hotspur), Shay Facey (Manchester City), Lloyd Jones (Liverpool), Fankaty Dabo (Chelsea), Isaac Hayden (Arsenal), Matt Targett (Southampton)
Midfielders: Paul Digby (Barnsley), Lewis Baker (Chelsea), Ben Pearson (Manchester United)*, John Swift (Rotherham, on loan from Chelsea), Harrison Reed (Southampton), Matty Grimes (Exeter City).
Forwards: Josh Murphy (Norwich City), Callum Robinson (Aston Villa), Jordon Ibe (Liverpool), Rolando Aarons (Newcastle United), Chuba Akpom (Arsenal), Chris Long (Everton), Kwame Thomas (Derby County), Josh Harrop (Manchester United)^.
* Replaced Diego Poyet (West Ham United),
** Replaced James Wilson (Manchester United)
^ Replaced Adam Campbell (Newcastle United)
Tickets for the game cost £3 and £1.50 and can be purchased at the ticket office at the New Bucks Head Stadium, by calling 01952 640064 or clicking here.
And if you’re a booking for a group or from a Charter Standard club or league, you can get tickets for even less!