WILL Hughes admitted he was surprised to be handed his first start for England under-21s at Bramall Lane last night.
The Derby County midfielder was named in the starting XI and played 72 minutes as the Young Lions demolished their auld enemy Scotland 6-0 at the home of Sheffield United.
And Hughes, who graduated through the ranks at the Rams’ Academy, believes the victory is a sign of a fresh start in English football following the side's early exit at the European Championships in Israel earlier this summer.
“I really enjoyed it, my previous two appearances have been from the substitutes’ bench, but to get a start was a really good feeling and hopefully I did alright,” he told the club’s official website.
“It was a bit of a shock to be handed a start; you don’t expect to start especially for the England Under-21s, so when I found out I was really happy but I was a bit nervous at the same time.
“It was nice to get an early goal which settled the lads down because the longer it goes on at 0-0 the pressure mounts.
"In the first half they did well to contain us a bit more but in the second half when they got tired I think we did well to exploit them.
“The manager (Roy Hodgson) told the side to forget about the tournament in Israel and get it out of their system; it is a new year, a new set of players and hopefully a new era for English football.”
Goals from Nathan Redmond, Raheem Sterling, Connor Wickham, Ross Barkley, Jonjo Shelvey and former Rams loanee Tom Carroll sealed the win, and Hughes admits it has been a great experience to play and train alongside the Premier League players.
“As I have said before, playing for England at any level is going to be a great experience," he said.
"When you are playing with people that have played in the Premier League - the likes of Jonjo Shelvey who showed his class with a goal and an assist, it is a good learning curve.”