Skip to main content
Published 01 July 2021 4 min read
England Men's Senior Team

Ukrainian days

Written by:

Nicholas Veevers

Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker recall memories and learnings from their trip to Ukraine and tournament debuts in 2009  

Donetsk in the east of Ukraine during its balmy months of July seems an unlikely place for two teenage Englishmen to spend two weeks of their summer.

But for Three Lions pair Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker, both now preparing to face Ukraine at EURO 2020, it’s a time and place which will always bring back fond, and regrettable, memories after first cutting their teeth at a competitive international tournament with England. 

It was the summer of 2009 and both players were part of the England MU19s squad who reached the UEFA U19 EURO Finals, after emerging through two sets of qualifying rounds to reach the last eight.

With the tournament staged in Ukraine, the Young Lions were based in Donetsk for a group stage containing hosts Ukraine, Slovenia and Switzerland.

Both players were still relatively new to the international stage, with head coach Brian Eastick having only picked Walker for the first time a few months earlier for a friendly game with Spain in Bournemouth.

And while Trippier had previously featured for the MU18s as well as in the first qualifying round in Northern Ireland that season, this was a first competitive tournament for both of them.

“It was a great experience for me and it’s one that I do remember well,” said Walker, ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final tie in Rome. 

“I was only talking to my missus the other day about it and saying it was when we first got together, that’s when I went out there and lo and behold, we’re now playing Ukraine in the quarter-final of the European Championship at senior level.

“It was a whirlwind two weeks for me really. I’d played a couple of games for Sheffield United [in the Championship play-offs], then agreed to sign for Tottenham before heading directly to the Championships to meet up with the team.

“And then all of a sudden I was playing in a European Championship for the first time and starting games, and there were some big players in that squad at the time.”

Kieran Trippier in action against France at the 2009 UEFA U19 EURO semi-final in Ukraine. Photos by Paul Mohan – UEFA via Sportsfile
Kieran Trippier in action against France at the 2009 UEFA U19 EURO semi-final in Ukraine. Photos by Paul Mohan – UEFA via Sportsfile

Trippier added: "2009, yes, it was in Ukraine too, with Walks also in the squad and it’s one of those trips which I’ll always remember.

"Looking back now, from my experiences in the game since, it still means a lot. 

"And to play in the senior EUROs now with a player that I played with back then, it's special.”

At the time, Walker was coming off the back of his breakthrough season with Sheffield United which saw him earn his move to Spurs, while Trippier was emerging through the academy ranks at Manchester City.

They were both right-backs competing for the same spot in the team although that didn’t stop a friendship being formed which has since seen them on the same side with both Spurs and England.

And after featuring as a right-sided central defender in England’s win over Germany this week, Walker revealed it was during that tournament eleven years ago that he first featured in the middle.

“Yeah, that’s right, it was the first time I’d really played in there,” recalled the Manchester City man.

“There was me and Matthew Briggs who were playing at centre-back and there was Tripps and another good right-back called Gavin Hoyte who played at Arsenal. 

“So we did have a lot of right-backs in the squad and he [Eastick] played me as a centre back and I enjoyed it, I thought it worked really well too, as we got to the Final.”

02 Nov 2020 8:09

Kyle Walker on reaching 50 caps

The England defender speaks about his memories from representing the Three Lions

As Walker alludes to, the Young Lions came so close to making it an even more memorable experience too. 

After finishing top of their group and then beating France in the semi-final, they came up against the host nation in the Final in front of a partisan 25,000 crowd at Donetsk’s Olympiyskiy Stadium.

But two first-half goals conceded from set-plays saw them slip to a 2-0 defeat which remains a firm part of both players’ early learnings.

“I remember we played Ukraine in the group when we drew with them and then we actually played Ukraine again in the Final," recalled Trippier, who helped Atletico Madrid to the La Liga title last term.

"It was disappointing to lose and perhaps we shouldn’t have, but it was all part of a great experience then and throughout the England youth set up.

"It's helped me get to the position that I'm in today, a great journey and it’s one that I wouldn't change.”

Walker added: “We got to the Final and we were very unlucky to lose that game I think. 

“But what a great experience it was, to finally get into a competition wearing an England shirt.

“It’s hats off to a few of the lads from that squad who went on to get a senior cap. 

“As we know England is a proud and good footballing nation with a lot of talent so to come through the ranks at MU19 level into the MU20s and MU21s and then seniors, to get your first cap is a great testament to you and your family but also one you should always remember as part of the journey you’ve been on.”

The full England MU19s squad for the 2009 U19 EURO was as follows:-

Jason Steele (Middlesbrough), Kieran Trippier (Manchester City), Joe Mattock (Leicester City), Dan Gosling (Everton), Kyle Walker (Sheffield United), Gavin Hoyte (Arsenal), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United), Danny Drinkwater (Manchester United), Nile Ranger (Newcastle United), Nathan Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Henri Lansbury (Arsenal), Rhys Murphy (Arsenal), Declan Rudd (Norwich City), Matty James (Manchester United), Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur), Joe Bennett (Middlesbrough), Andrew Tutte (Manchester City), Matthew Briggs (Fulham)

* Players in bold capped at senior level by England