Pic: David Loveday
KEATON WOOD says being handed the captain’s armband was even more special because of the group of players he got to lead out.
The Dartford defender quickly came to the attention of boss Paul Fairclough for his leadership qualities and was asked to captain the side against Panjab FA.
He picked up a metatarsal injury, meaning he couldn’t play in the second game against Jersey. But Wood, 22, says the overall experience with England C has been hugely positive.
“I was truly honoured to be brought along and considered – then to put on the captain’s armband,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to put on an England shirt and be captain.
“It’s a privilege and was a big surprise. I left it as a surprise for my family. It’s not only wearing the Three Lions on my shirt and captaining my country, but it’s this particular group of boys. We’ve gelled well and put on good displays.
“To sum it up, a member of the Panjab staff said, ‘Have you boys been together a long time?’ We’d only been together since Friday. We spoke about the things we’d done well in the first game on Sunday and one of the things I put forward was team cohesion – some of the lads didn’t know what it meant! But, seriously, we’ve all become really good friends.
“We’ve done lots of team bonding. At first it’s a bit daunting but I can understand why we’ve done it. I believe in the saying, ‘The more we know, the more we grow’.
“I had Darren McQueen as my partner. Two days after we’d interviewed each other, we were still talking about it. Some of the stuff we talked about we probably wouldn’t discuss with family or friends.
“Football needs a bit more of that sometimes. You see these people day in, day out and you don’t really know who they are. So I’ve definitely learnt a few things.”
The former Millwall youngster joined Tony Burman’s Dartford last summer, following a loan spell the previous season, and helped them into the play-offs.
“I’ve loved it and I feel I really matured,” Wood said. “I think I outgrew U21 football. I spoke to the gaffer, Neil Harris, at Millwall, Scott Fitzgerald, Justin Skinner, Dave Livermore and Steve Sallis and they all agreed it was best to part ways.
“Without being big-headed, it had got too easy for me. I needed to learn something different and playing to win for the club and the fans. It’s not just playing to get better, there’s something behind it.”
By day, Wood is a coach at Southampton’s Academy after taking on a degree in Coaching and Performance in Football and landing an internship at the Premier League club.
“It’s a great place to learn,” Wood said. “They like the fact I’m playing so I can really connect with the players.
“They put a lot into coaching and personal development so it’s a great place to be.”