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Richard Shaw Discusses U23s Handling International Duty at a Young Age

13 November 2018

Under-23s coach Richard Shaw was forced to field a disjointed side for a 4-1 victory over Colchester United on Monday, as many of his more seasoned players were not available due to their international duties.

Regular members of the starting 11 Nya Kirby, Nikola Tavares and Oliver Webber have all been called-up to represent their countries, an experience Shaw says is undoubtedly beneficial. 

He spoke following the Eagles' victory on Monday afternoon about just what the effect of earning a call-up at a younger age is and how his players react to the news.

"It's brilliant for them, brilliant for them," he said. "And it gives us opportunities to play the younger ones."

Against Colchester, Shaw's squad included a full bench of Under-18 players, some of which were making the step-up for the first time.

"Like I said, we've played TQ [Addy], Brandon Pierrick, [and] Francis Baptiste played his first match in a while. It gives us an opportunity to play those boys which is what it's all about really. I couldn't be more pleased."

For those more accustomed to Under-23s football, however, receiving an international call-up is still met eagerly.

"I was on the phone to Nik Tavares the other night, he's looking forward to going away with the Croatia Under-20s. 

"I found out the news and then spoke to him about it and you could tell there was a bit of excitement there. I was really pleased with him. He had a cruciate injury last year but he's come back in the off-season, he's worked hard and the physios have done a fantastic job with him. To get him to a situation where he's not only fit but he's playing some good football and being selected by Croatia, they should be very proud of that."

Other Development players have been spotted by their countries, too, though, and Shaw explained how it feels from a manager's perspective to see them earn the recognition they deserve.

"Kian [Flanagan] is being consistently picked with Ireland, Nya Kirby with England, Nik Tavares like I said with Croatia now. So, for us, certainly for my age group, it's a real fillip that the boys get selected. It shows we're doing something right here when the guys are consistently getting picked for their countries. It proves we're doing something quite good.

"As long as those boys keep playing well and doing the right things, they've got good futures."

When they leave, however, the club still ensures that a close tab is kept on its players wherever in the world they may be.

"We've got to keep an eye on them. The boys stay in touch with our physio department just to find out exactly what they're doing. If they need a bit of extra time, we'll obviously give them a bit of extra time. With us, if we have to rest them and leave them out for a day or two then so be it. But they're always in good spirits when they come back."

Playing club-level football is one thing, but international duty is another. Shaw suggests that making the step-up to playing full international fixtures can only be made following focus and hard work.

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"It's not going to be easy [breaking into the first-team internationally]. I think being around your country at a young age is a real feather in their cap, it's really good for the guys. But it gets harder and harder the further they go into it. Like I said, look at Croatia - World Cup finalists. That's what you're trying to break in to.

"It's not going to be easy but the guys are on the right track. I think first and foremost they need to look to break into their club sides and take it from there. They're at a very young stage of their development, a very young stage. They've got a good few years of learning, not just the good stuff but the bad things as well.

"It's a long, long road. But I think the fact they're being called up by their country at this age and any age is a real feather in their cap."

Finally, when asked about the benefits of playing for their country, Shaw explained one often overlooked advantage, "They get a different perspective of football, they're playing against countries with different cultures, different styles. They learn a new way of playing, obviously Croatia for example might play differently to how we're playing.

"They're obviously playing with the best players in their age groups in that particular country so the tempo, the intensity will be higher. They'll always be learning."

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