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Ethan Ampadu has plans to make a big impression for club and country

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 18 Mar 2024

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Ethan Ampadu insists he has a lot more to achieve in football as he prepares to become the youngest Welshman to win 50 caps.

Ampadu is set to break Chris Gunter’s record at the tender age of 23 in Thursday’s Euro 2024 play-off semi-final against Finland in Cardiff.

The versatile Leeds player, who can operate at centre-back or in midfield, will reach the 50-cap milestone at the same age as England pair Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen.

“Everyone wants to try and achieve it as quickly as they can,” said Ampadu, who made his Wales debut against France as a 17-year-old in 2017.

“Whether that was by the time I was 23 or 28, just to achieve the milestone itself is a massive achievement. I’m not really too interested on how quick you can do it.

“I’m still young but I’ve experienced a lot, which I’m very grateful for.

“I’m hoping I’ve still got a long way to go in the game and I can achieve a lot more.

“It’s just nice to hopefully reach the milestone, but it’s more important we get to the Euros. That’s massive.

“I would probably enjoy that more, especially that feeling as a squad, and as fans we all deserve that.”

Ampadu was identified as a future Wales player while still a schoolboy studying for GCSEs in his home city of Exeter, qualifying for the Dragons through his Welsh-born mother Wendy.

He was capped by England at Under-16 level, but insists he always felt Welsh growing up and trained with Gareth Bale and company ahead of Wales reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

Ampadu said: “My dad took me up to the Vale (Wales’ training base) and I remember that drive. I was a very nervous young boy.

“The first person I met was Ben Davies, he said ‘hello’ and we had a short conversation.

“He might not remember it, but he made it very easy and it was very warming.

“Just that initial ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’ was quite settling for me.”

Ampadu left Exeter for Chelsea at the age of 16 and had loan spells at RB Leipzig, Sheffield United and Italian clubs Venezia and Spezia during his time at Stamford Bridge.

He suffered three relegations and headlines claiming he was cursed, but he has helped Leeds to the top of the Championship after making a permanent £7million move to Elland Road last summer.

“It’s a lot nicer and more enjoyable when you are winning,” said Ampadu.

“I have taken the feeling of three relegations and how much that hurt me. I have used that as a motivation to not have that feeling again.”

Ampadu has started every league game for Leeds and made captain with Liam Cooper injured, while Wales boss Rob Page has called him a future captain of his country.

He said: “I didn’t expect it (captaincy), but I was proud and very happy to see it and it has come naturally to me.

“Daniel (Farke, Leeds manager) has placed a lot of trust and faith in me and I wanted to repay that.

“I still play every game as I did at the start of the season. I haven’t changed.

“Also because of the position I play, either as a midfielder or defender, you are in the middle of the pitch.”

Ampadu has established an outstanding centre-back partnership with Wales colleague Joe Rodon at Elland Road over the past few months.

But Page has suggested he will revert to a central midfield role against Finland, with the winners hosting Poland or Estonia five days later to decide a place at Euro 2024.

He said: “Hopefully I’ve shown this season I feel comfortable in midfield and also as a defender.”

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