The Non-League Football Paper

Fleet’s Sam Magri looking to upset England’s Russia 2018 hopes with Malta

Sam Magri is action for Dover last season (photo: TGS Photo)

By Matt Badcock

SAM MAGRI played alongside Raheem Sterling as an England youth international – now the Ebbsfleet United defender is aiming to dent both the Three Lions’ and Scotland’s World Cup hopes.

The 23-year-old Malta international has been called-up for the international qualifiers in September.

He’ll be looking to earn his sixth cap when Gareth Southgate’s side travel to the Ta’Qali National Stadium on September 1 before taking on the Scots at Hampden Park three days later.

It means the highly-rated defender will miss Fleet’s return to his former club Dover Athletic on Bank Holiday Monday and their next National League game against Eastleigh.

Magri, one of Daryl McMahon’s six summer signings at Ebbsfleet, told The NLP: “It’s going to be two hard games, but it will be really good to be involved in. It’s good to be in any squad, but getting called up for the games against England and Scotland adds a bit more to it.

“All the lads and the gaffer have been really supportive. It’s always a bit surreal. Even seeing the World Cup badges on your arm and the players you line up against in the tunnel before the game. It’s really good. You can’t get much better really. I’m really happy to be involved.”

Switched codes: Sam Magri representing England at U-17 level (photo: Action Images / Craig Brough)

The former Portsmouth, QPR and Crystal Palace man has caps for England U-16s, 18s, 19s and the U1-7s, who he went to the 2011 U-17 World Cup in Mexico with.

In that team were the likes of Sterling and new Everton keeper Jordan Pickford as England topped their group before beating Argentina to reach the semi-finals where they lost to Germany.

Magri qualifies for Malta through his dad and grandfather and after playing for the U-21s, won his first cap last November against Slovenia.

Malta may currently sit bottom of the qualification group, but Magri says experiencing international football is helping his own game back in the National League.

“The style of football at Ebbsfleet is quite similar because we like to play out,” he said. “Playing against some of the best players in the world who are playing in the best leagues in the world is always going to be tough, but I’m always learning from it. It’s been really good for me to play against those types of players.

“Slovenia’s Josep Ilicic, who was playing for Fiorentina at the time, is unbelievable and then Marek Hamsik was class for Slovakia. It’s just good to be out there playing against them.”

Before international duty Magri is focusing on helping his new club get off to a good start.

“Going back full-time, I can already notice the difference in my fitness levels,” Magri added. “We’ve got some really good players in the squad and had a good pre-season. We can’t wait to get into the season now.”

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