“It was disappointing but we’re lucky enough that we get another chance to put things right”
England Under-21s star James Ward-Prowse
Lose to Slovakia today and England Under-21s will almost certainly be crashing out of the group stage for the third finals in a row.
Aidy Boothroyd’s side began their campaign with Friday’s stalemate with Sweden and were rescued by keeper Jordan Pickford’s late penalty save.
But Ward-Prowse, who played in the previous tournament failure under Gareth Southgate, claims the current crop of players have learned from the experience.
The Southampton midfielder and Young Lions skipper said: “It was a massive disappointment for me, that 2015 tournament.
“I played a lot of games and I captained a few games leading up to it so to come off in the first game and not feature at all after that was a big disappointment.
“It was disappointing but we’re lucky enough that we get another chance to put things right.
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“There’s six or seven of us from the last time so we’ve all got those feelings and that hunger to get things right. We want to make sure that we’re not having those same feelings again.”
Ward-Prowse, 22, insists he is a much better player now than he was then, when Southgate subbed him against Portugal and did not use him again.
He said: “Having spoken to Gareth at the time about the reasons why he took me off, it made me realise that I’ve got some things to work on and change.
“I went away and in the long run it was a very good thing to happen to me. Although I didn’t play in any more of that tournament it was a wake-up call.
“It’s not a nice feeling when you don’t reach the level that you should do. The way that we were playing two years ago we should have gone on further.
“But that gives us all an incentive to put things right. A point is a good start for us, we are up and running and looking forward to Slovakia.”
Southgate is currently in Kielce supporting Boothroyd’s boys and has been giving them pointers after they managed just one shot on target against the Swedes.
Ward-Prowse said: “He’s been around and pulled us individually and seen how we are. He wants to show us support and give us that confidence. It was great to see him here.
“We know we can play better. We know the levels we can reach. That’s why we were disappointed after the game.
“We admit ourselves that we weren’t good enough to win the game but it shows our grit and resilience.”
Only the three group winners are guaranteed to progress, with one extra place for the best of the second-placed teams.
That leaves England desperately needing a win here before they face hosts Poland on Thursday.