BURTON Albion youth team player Johnny Rush recently completed 90 minutes for Gibraltar under-21s in European Qualifier.
Rush, who is currently in the second year of the Burton Albion Professional Development Phase side, played the whole game in their 2-0 defeat to Georgia.
After representing Gibraltar at Under-17 level, defender Rush made his first appearance for the under-21 side and said it was a dream come true.
“It’s a dream come true. When I got the call up I was so excited. At 21s level you’re playing against men who are competing in top European leagues.
“I trained with squad a week before I headed out and the training was a very high intensity and we were doing specific match preparation. It was great to meet the whole squad and learn their style of play.”
“The stakes were very high with it being a European qualifier. It was 97 minutes of giving everything and having a never-say-die attitude. You had to be switched on. The speed and competitiveness was a whole different level. noise of fans. A different sort of experience but still unbelievable.”
Playing in front of a packed crowd, it was different to his normal match attendance levels. His Dad watched the match live from the stadium and Johnny said it was a proud moment for everyone connected with him.
“The match itself was played in front of 12,000 people and it was an absolute battle. Walking out at the start was a bit of a blur to see that many people, it was hard to comprehend. Singing the national anthem and looking at the crowd you realise how unbelievable it is to be there. When something happened the roar of the crowd was deafening and it was brilliant to have that opportunity to play in a game that meant that much to the fans.
“It was a proud moment for my family to see me represent their country and all of my friends and family were watching from home and my Dad travelled out to watch. My Grandparents were thrilled watching the game as they are from Gibraltar.
After his experience overseas, Rush is hoping to kick on and keep improving with the help of his Burton Albion Academy coaches Shaun Barker and Keith Gilroy.
"I’m hoping to bring lots of what I’ve learned. The sheer level of pace and passion of a game at the highest level is something I’m going to bring back with me. At full-time I just thought ‘what a battle’ and I knew I’d definitely gained a lot but overall it was just an unbelievable experience to represent my country and it’s a big step towards my ultimate aim of representing the first-team.”
“Barks (Shaun Barker) and Gilly (Keith Gilroy) were so positive after my first session back with the club and we had a great chat about it. They’ve enabled me to have the opportunity over the last 18 months and if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have represented my country.”
Professional Development Phase Lead Coach and Burton Albion legend Keith Gilroy was delighted for Johnny to hit the international stage.
“It was a fantastic achievement for Johnny to represent his country at under-21 level. Over the time he has been with us he has shown an excellent consistency, attitude and application towards his football development.
“It is a proud moment for him and his family to play at international level. It is the highest accolade a player can get and having an international represent Burton Albion is fantastic and is also testament to all the good work done by the staff at the club.”
After playing against Georgia, Johnny faces matches home and away matches against the Netherlands in October and November respectively.