We’re always thrilled when any of our players, regardless of the age group or category, are called up for international duty. This week a two-day camp (December 13/14 2017) at St. George’s Park, the English FA’s national football centre, sees Harry Bower and Ben Clark go head-to-head.
With the former chosen by England Colleges FA and the latter representing Independent Schools FA, The New Saints of Oswestry Town is extremely proud that they are both part of the set-up.
Ahead of the camp, we had scheduled an interview session at Park Hall at the end of last week. However, the adverse weather conditions meant that was cancelled. Not to be deterred though, we chatted with them both separately over the phone and you can check out the results of our conversations below.
TNS: Harry, you’re playing for the England Colleges FA, how did that come around?
Harry: I was nominated by Steve Benyon, along with Matt Cole and Liam Parry, to go through a selection process of three trials.
TNS: It was an honour to be in the trials but how did you feel when you came through them and was selected for the event proper?
Harry: It was a relief as I’d been in the England Schools trials at the same time and to be selected for one of them was a weight off my shoulder in many ways. It meant I could also prepare and get excited!
TNS: You’ve got the two-day camp coming up this week, at St. George’s Park. What’s involved?
Harry: On the first day it’s training and there’s an overview of everything that will be going on. We’ll be getting to know the staff, spend time with the physio and there will be team-building sessions. On the second day there will again be physio appointments and we will be having activation sessions in the pool and the gym. Then it will be match preparation before the actual game itself.
TNS: It all sounds very exciting. Is it a case of Christmas coming early for you?
Harry: Yeah, something like that! (Harry laughs!)
TNS: Do you know of your own teammates prior to the camp?
Harry: Yes, I’m quite close with one of the players who is in the same college league as me and he got selected as well.
TNS: You also know one of the opposition as well, of course. What will it be like playing against Ben?
Harry: When I first found out, it was exciting knowing I’d be playing against a close mate of mine. We’ve played against each other a few times when he used to play for Chester but not at this level.
TNS: Have you been to St. George’s Park before?
Harry: Yes, I went a couple of years ago with TNS on a day trip to look around.
TNS: This though, it’s on another level. You’re going back to play, gracing the same facilities as the England superstars!
Harry: Yes, it will be amazing. I’m very excited.
TNS: Harry, back to your own football at TNS now. You made your debut in the Nathaniel MG Cup at Flint Town United but as we said in the post-match interview then, it’s a difficult team to break into.
Harry: Yes it is. I’ve been involved in training recently with the first team and there are some very good players at TNS, it’s a tough challenge to break into the squad.
TNS: As a young player though, I guess that’s the sort of challenge that you want, as you are pushed to the limit?
Harry: Yes, I want to work hard and keep going for it.
TNS: Ben, you’re playing for the Independent Schools FA. Tell us, how did that come about?
Ben: The school that I’m at (Oswestry) nominated me and few other lads to go on a trial involving north v south. That group got cut down to 18, who were chosen to go to St. George’s Park later this week to play two games – one against the Welsh Colleges and the other against the English Colleges.
TNS: When you were chosen for the initial trial that must have been a great honour but to progress to the stage where you’re now off to the English FA’s national football centre, how do you feel about that?
Ben: It’s a great achievement to get into any England side and I’m thrilled. It’s a good thing to have on your CV!
TNS: It’s more than just a couple of games this week, it’s a two-day camp?
Ben: Yes, it’s over two days and we’ll be playing against the English Colleges FA on Thursday and I’ll be up against Harry Bower who I normally play with at TNS in the U19s.
TNS: The game that involves Harry gives added spice and we’re very proud at TNS that both of you have been selected. Once that whistle goes though it will be all systems go!
Ben: Definitely, you always want to win every game of football that you play in. Harry is a good friend but it’s always good to beat a mate and I’m looking forward to the game!
TNS: Let’s look at your career at Park Hall, Ben. You made your full debut recently in the Nathaniel MG Cup but now you’ve added to that by making your first appearance in the JD Welsh Premier League.
Ben: Yeah, it’s always good to make your debut in any competition and even if it’s only for a few minutes it’s great to have that experience. I enjoyed it!
TNS: Ben, we’ve spoken before in interviews how difficult it is to break into the TNS squad, never mind getting on the pitch. Are you pleased with your progress so far under Scott Ruscoe?
Ben: Yes, definitely. Over the last six months I feel I’ve improved as a footballer and I’ve grown a lot as I’ve gained more experience. Playing against people of my own age I take control of the game more and stepping up has been a great experience. It makes you try so much harder just to do as well as you can. I’ve really enjoyed the last six months.
TNS: Well, Ben, whenever you’ve featured for the first team you certainly haven’t looked out of place. How do you see you own career progressing in the near future?
Ben: Hopefully I get another contract and keep playing as much as possible. I want to keep improving and hopefully break into the starting XI during the year.
Lead photograph. Credit: English FA website
Action shots. Credit: Brian Jones