England can win the European Under-21 Championship finals, which kick-off in Sweden on Monday, says Peterborough United goalkeeper Joe Lewis - but not with the former Norwich City stopper playing up front!
Lewis played the last 15 minutes of England's final warm-up game, a 7-0 win against Azerbaijan at Milton Keynes Dons, as an emergency striker when Wigan Athletic's Lee Cattermole had to be substituted.
The Posh keeper explained: "We only had two substitutes left on the bench, and both of us were goalkeepers! So the gaffer (Stuart Pearce) turned round and asked if either of us fancied going on up front and I said, 'Yeah, I'll give it a go.'
"I'd only gone up front once before, in the last few minutes of an FA Youth Cup tie for Norwich, but this time it was an international game in front of the TV cameras and it was a bit surreal to say the least.
"But I think all keepers quietly fancy themselves as outfield players and I made the most of it. I ran around and made a nuisance of myself, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience - but I don't think I'll give up the day job!"
Lewis has been doing pretty well in his day job since joining Peterborough from Norwich in January 2008. The 21 year-old keeper has helped Posh to successive promotions as well as establishing himself in the England Under-21 set-up.
He also had a memorable stint as part of the senior national squad for last summer's games against Trinidad & Tobago and the USA, stepping in as a late replacement after Wigan's Chris Kirkland had pulled out through a back injury.
"That was a massive experience for me," said Lewis. "It was amazing to be involved with world class players like Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. It was a big confidence booster and a massive incentive in career terms.
"A few years down the line I'd love to be part of the senior squad on a regular basis, but for now I'm more than happy to be involved with the Under-21's and hopefully I'll be part of a successful squad in Sweden."
England open their Euro 2009 campaign with a match against Finland on Monday before facing Spain then Germany in what is a difficult Group B. The Group A teams in the eight-nation tournament are Sweden, Italy, Belarus and Serbia.
Lewis and his colleagues, among them three other Football League players - Scott Loach of Watford plus the Middlesbrough duo Andrew Taylor and Adam Johnson - will be aiming to go one better than the squad that reached the Euro 2007 semi-finals.
And the young Posh star reckons that their aim can be achieved. "I think we've got enough quality in the squad," he says, " to go all the way if we play to our potential and get that bit of luck you need in any tournament.
"We've got a very tough group and we know that we'll have to be at our best right from the first match. But if we can make a good start then build on it with consistent performances, I believe we've got a good chance to come out winners."
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