Exclusive Stephy Mavididi PNE column

Taking on Middlesbrough's Adam Clayton
Taking on Middlesbrough's Adam Clayton

Last week I played for England Under-20s in a friendly game against Holland and managed to get on the scoresheet.

It is a privilege to play for your country at any level and scoring a goal made it even more special.

The Holland match was played at Telford and we won 3-0, Marcus Edwards from Tottenham and Leicester’s Darnell Johnson getting the other goals.

I played up front as a lone striker that night, with a No.10 behind me in support.

A couple of days later, the lads also played a friendly away in Switzerland and drew 0-0, but I didn’t play in that game.

I have been involved with England since I got called up for the Under-17s European Championships.

At the time I was 16 and it was a great experience.

The tournament was held in Bulgaria, we got through the group stages but lost to Russia in the quarter-finals.

Playing an international tournament, getting ready to play every three days, was a great learning curve.

My team-mates from that tournament included Trent Alexander-Arnold who is at Liverpool, Reece Oxford who at the moment is on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach from West Ham, Everton’s Tom Davies, Chris Willock – who is now at Benfica – and Jay DaSilva from Chelsea.

We have moved up the age groups together, some are now playing regularly for their clubs and others – like me – are out on loan.

At the Under-17s age group, I also played in the World Cup.

That was held in Chile and again, was a great experience and a real learning curve.

The tournament was played during the season in October and it was very hot. We were in a tough group with Guinea, Brazil and South Korea.

In the first game, we drew with Guinea and then we lost to Brazil.

It meant we had to beat South Korea to progress from the group but unfortunately we only drew.

That was tough to take but I look back on the experience with a lot of pride.

I’ve moved through the England age groups since then, playing 18s, 19s and now the Under-20s.

Hopefully I can push on to the Under-21s and who knows after that?

International football does help you develop as a player.

You have a different coach to listen to and learn from, it’s a different type of game and you are playing against opposition from different parts of the world who set up in different ways.

I was back with Preston earlier in the week and I’m looking forward to our game against Barnsley.

Since arriving here on the eve of the season, I’ve been made to feel very welcome by the lads and that has helped me settle in quickly.

The gaffer has been very good and patient with me, he has given me the time to adapt to what is required and how he wants the team to play.

I’ve got some game-time under my belt, starting the cup match at Accrington and coming on as a substitute in the last two league games.

Hopefully I can push on from here, be involved in the games and get a lot more time on the pitch.

The pace of the game in the Championship is a lot quicker than what I was used to, that is something you 
notice straight away.

As well as the football side of things, being up here and away from home is a new life experience.

It is the first time I have been properly away from home and that is something to get used to.

I’m staying at a hotel at the moment and was in with a few of the other new lads but they have moved out now.

The traffic here is easier than in London but people keep telling me to wait for the weather in winter.

My footballing career started at Southend United when I was eight. Scouts from a lot of the London clubs watched me playing 
in a kids’ Sunday League team and it went from there 

I signed for Southend and had a great three or four years there.

They kept your feet on the ground and then Arsenal came in for me when I was aged 12 – I’ve been there ever since.

When I was at Southend, it meant rushing home from school a couple of nights a week so that I could get to training.

I had a couple of trains to catch to get there from where I lived in East London, but it wasn’t a bad journey.

It was only one stop on the second train to get to where Southend trained.

Arsenal have been great with me as I have moved up the age groups and this loan at Preston is a big step in where I want to get to.