By Matt Badcock
Ryan Huddart believes England C is the seal of approval for young Non-League players as the
talented Boreham Wood keeper eyes a second cap.
The 22-year-old met up with Paul Fairclough’s 16-man squad on Sunday to begin preparations for today’s clash with Wales C at Salford City.
Huddart, who has represented England at U16 and U17 level, says Non-League’s Three Lions is just as important as any other representative side in the country.
“I think it’s so important the FA keep England C going for the players,” Huddart told The NLP. “It’s a real springboard for getting players back in the League. It’s massive. It’s just as important as the U16s, 17s, 18s and 19s for developing players and giving them a second chance. That’s what it is in a way, a mini second chance.
“To have that on your CV, in whatever walk of life you go into, the fact you’ve played for England C and represented your country, no one can take that off you.
“It’s good they’ve shown trust in me to be in the group again. Paul Fairclough and (goalkeeper coach) Mick Payne must like me and I must have done enough with Boreham Wood to be re-selected. It’s always good to play for your country.”
Huddart earned his first England C cap against Estonia last November in what is proving to be a successful first season in Non-League football.
He joined National League Wood after leaving Premier League giants Arsenal, where he’d learned his trade from the age of 15.
Legendary boss Arsene Wenger twice named him on the bench in the Champions League but, despite a short loan at Eastleigh, this is the first campaign of regular football – and he says it’s vital for his long-term career.
“You probably need 50 to 100 games behind you and it’s where you have to go to get them,” Huddart said. “Luckily for me Boreham Wood have given me that opportunity to play week-in, week-out and it’s been fantastic – the best thing that could have happened to me.
“Better than going to a League One or Two club as a No.2 because if I’d have done that in those divisions, I’ve still not really played. At least now if I go back to that level I will have games behind me and a manager will be a lot more comfortable. It’s exactly the same for defenders.
“Look at our England No.1 at the moment, Jordan Pickford. He’s played in the National League on loan – it just shows games mean everything.”
Huddart says he will forever owe Boreham Wood and boss Luke Garrard for taking a chance on him as he looks to mix his Gunners grounding with first team football. It was an upbringing that saw him work alongside the best in the business – including Czech Republic international Petr Cech.
“He’s always helpful,” he said. “To train with him for three seasons and be so close to how he deals with ups and downs – he’s so level headed.
“I remember his first game against West Ham at home. He came and missed a cross and they scored. After he said, ‘That’s how you don’t make your debut in front of 60,000 people!’
“The next game we played Liverpool and he was absolutely outstanding. That’s the art of being a top goalie. The top, top ones make minimal mistakes and unbelievable saves.”