DESPITE making his England U21 debut earlier this month, Walters Ash hockey player Liam Sanford knows he cannot afford to stand still if he wants to secure selection for this summer’s European Championships in Belgium.

An England representative at U16 and U18 level, Sanford made the next step up when he was selected for the U21 team which drew 2-2 and 3-3 against Belgium in a double header at Bisham Abbey on May 10 and 11.

This was followed by another two games against Scotland on May 22 and 23 with former Princes Risborough School pupil Sanford and his new teammates winning the first game 5-2 before then losing 5-3.

And while a relative newcomer to the team, the 18-year-old, who also won the British Colleges Cup with Henley College earlier this month, is already eyeing up cementing his position in the team for the European U21 Championships in Belgium from July 20-26.

“I was involved in the U18 European Championship last year and that was my biggest tournament I had played in,” he said.

“I’ve had a good season so far, with winning the mixed British Colleges Cup with my college too, and hopefully I can keep that success going in July.

“I was really nervous before my first U21 cap but after the first five minutes I got into it and it went really well.

“We drew both games and I felt I played well considering it was my first time. Then against Scotland I felt more settled in the team and put an improved performance.

“There is a big step up from the U18s to U21s, they run around a lot more, everyone is fitter and stronger and the game is quicker, it’s ridiculous.

“But I feel I am getting used to it now. We have a few more matches before selection camps for the U21 Championships which is my main aim.”

The U21 team is one step below the full England senior team, who are currently competing in the Hockey World Cup out in The Hague, Netherlands.

And while concentrating on his U21 progress for now, Sanford has set his long-term sights on making the final step up to full England international.

“Being a full time senior is my aim. I’m keeping tabs on how the men are doing out in the World Cup.

“I think that breaking through into that team for me is about two or three years away so I’ve just got to keep working hard.

“If it comes it comes, but I’m pleased with how I have progressed this year.”

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