This interview with David Brooks is from the Euro 2020 preview issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe now and never miss an issue!
Your first Wales game came in 2017 – the Stade de France was quite the venue for that, wasn’t it?!
To make your debut in a big stadium against the likes of Kylian Mbappe – that’ll live with me forever. I had about 10 family members travelling over from Wales for it, as well.
The triple substitution that night felt significant: Ethan Ampadu (17), Ben Woodburn (18) and you. How exciting was that for your whole age group?
To be fair, I didn’t come in until under-21 level, so didn’t have the same build-up as Eth. Ben had been involved before but it was Ethan’s debut as well, and there were a few other young lads trying to do the same. So it was a very special night for us.
Just a few: your Wales U21 debut that year was in a team with Dan James, Joe Rodon, Tyler Roberts, Chris Mepham...
You just have to look at Dan, Tyler and Joe in the Premier League to see that the team had real quality. We were all striving to get into the senior side that did so well at Euro 2016.
What about your own rapid rise to the top tier, when Bournemouth bought you for £11.5m after 40-odd senior appearances for Sheffield United? Any nerves?
I don’t really get nervous. I’ve been practising for 12 years or so to get into the game, so you can’t let it pass you by. There have only been a handful of occasions where I’ve felt nervous: my Wales debut in a packed French stadium, and the Sheffield derby, which was the first hostile game I’d played in. But no, I didn’t play many games before coming to Bournemouth, and most of those were off the bench under [Chris] Wilder.
After your debut season in the top flight two years ago, you were shortlisted for PFA Young Player of the Year alongside Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Declan Rice. Did you expect that?
Genuinely, I didn’t even know that I was in contention – I just got a phone call. It was pretty special because of that. I didn’t even know there was a PFA dinner! I got to take my mum and dad. To be nominated with those other players was a real achievement.
How’s this season been, after a long injury lay-off during Bournemouth’s relegation campaign? You were Championship Player of the Month for November.
Yeah, I was playing all right at the start. The whole team had a dip in form, but it’s been about getting back to playing my very best.
How do you find Wales’ fluidity, with Harry Wilson or yourself operating as a false nine if Kieffer Moore isn’t on?
I quite like it. I enjoy playing No.10 anyway, and you kind of end up in that role, in the space between midfielders and defenders. Gareth Bale likes to drift in and the false nine goes where the space is. Not much changes when you’re on the ball, but there’s an effort to be around the box when the ball is wide.
What were you doing during Euro 2016?
I think I might have been in Magaluf! But I tuned into every game, cheering the team on. Euro 2016 brought the country together. Qualifying again shows what we’re about.
Wales play Switzerland, Turkey and Italy in Group A at Euro 2020. Is one of those games particularly huge?
You don’t want to lose your opening game [against Switzerland] – then you’re chasing. We’ll be going out to win the game anyway. Half of the team is playing or has played in the Premier League, and we’ve got fantastic players across the whole squad, so we’ll give any team a game if we turn up. There’s no reason for us to be scared of anyone.
This article first appeared in the June 2021 issue of FourFourTwo
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