Arsenal’s European Championship winner targets further success with England
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
Four years ago, Ross Barkley was among the talented young prospects who steered England’s Under-17 side to European Championship glory.
Now the Everton midfielder is helping to carry the Three Lions’ World Cup hopes in Brazil – and Arsenal youngster Tafari Moore dreams of following in his footsteps when the 2018 tournament comes around.
Right-back Moore, who has just completed his first-year scholarship, was part of the England side that repeated their predecessors’ 2010 success in the European Under-17 Championships in Malta last month.
Surprisingly, England triumphed 4-1 on penalties to beat the Netherlands in the final after a 1-1 draw – and Moore, who turns 17 in July, says the experience has made him hungry for further success.
“The funny thing is I was the 11th penalty taker, so I was even after our keeper!” Moore recalled. “I knew it was best to let the best penalty takers go first and just wait for your turn.
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“The final was the best footballing experience of my life. The atmosphere was amazing and I was really happy to get some silverware for England, to feel the weight of my first proper gold medal.
“There was a lot of pressure but I think we dealt with it – we showed that English players can do it, we have the potential and hopefully managers will have seen that.
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“At this level it’s the highest you can get and as soon as the last penalty went in it felt like we’d won the World Cup – it was a little taster of how it might feel if we actually did do that.
“Ross Barkley was involved in the England Under-17 side four years ago, so maybe some of the players who just won it could be involved in the next World Cup. I’d love to be one of them.”
Moore, who grew up in Kilburn and represented the Brent district team, spent four years playing as a centre-back at QPR before being signed up by Arsenal.
Under the guidance of Under-14 coach Steve Leonard, he was shifted into midfield before moving to right-back and eventually progressing through to the Gunners’ Under-18 and Under-21 sides.
“The idea was to improve my awareness and ability on the ball,” said Moore, who featured in every round of the Gunners’ run to the FA Youth Cup semi-final last season.
“At the start it didn’t work out that great but, as the season went on, I was getting better at it.
“At a pre-season tour in Italy I played right-back for the first time and ended up getting player of the tournament. From then my confidence got much higher.
“Steve Leonard made a big difference in terms of pushing me on. When I first came to Arsenal, he really believed in me and said he could see me playing for England.”
The teenager featured in the England side that won the Home Nations’ Victory Shield tournament a year ago and, despite missing the first round of European Championship qualifiers through injury, returned for the ‘elite’ stage to help secure their place in Malta.
England, managed by John Peacock, defeated the host nation and then Turkey before losing to the Netherlands in their final group game, but they recovered to beat Portugal 2-0 in the semi-final and secure a rematch with the Dutch.
While representing the senior England team remains Moore’s long-term dream, he has more immediate ambitions – including the aim of forcing his way into Arsenal’s first team.
First-choice right-back Bacary Sagna left the club to sign for Manchester City last week and, while it might be unrealistic for the teenager to fill that gap immediately, he is certainly hopeful of moving up the pecking order.
“I have more confidence than I did before and I’ve already set targets for myself,” added Moore.
“At the end of July there’s the first team tour and the manager brings a lot of young players – that’s one target I’m trying to hit.
“I’ll try to be involved for England Under-19s as well next season and get a starting place. I want to prove I can play at a certain level, consistently play for Arsenal Under-21s and hopefully push into the first team.
“Although I don’t want to sound too eager, I’ve had a lot of Under-21 experience and I feel I need to push on more, so going out on loan is one thing that seems like a good idea.”
The full-back is encouraged by the fact that the management at Arsenal take a keen interest in the progress of their younger players, with manager Arsene Wenger and his assistant Steve Bould often among the spectators at youth team training sessions.
They’re always around and they know who needs to work on what,” said Moore. “They’re not just focused on the first team at Arsenal, they care about the whole club.
“It’s good hearing the coaches talk about people like Kieran Gibbs, who’s gone through the steps I’m going through now – it shows you can make it at Arsenal.
“I don’t want to get too old before I get in the first team and that’s the aim, hopefully sooner rather than later.”