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First team

Lloyd vows to 'learn lessons' from England agony

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

The euphoria surrounding England’s Euro 2020 campaign was certainly not lost on AFC Bournemouth star Lloyd Kelly.

Just 74 days before he celebrated the Three Lions’ victory over Croatia in their opening game at the finals, Kelly had been crestfallen.

His time with England under-21s had ended in heartbreaking fashion with Croatia this time the villains of the piece.

It is an experience the classy defender is determined to learn lessons from.

Having qualified with nine wins and a draw from ten games, the Young Lions were among the tournament favourites in Hungary and Slovenia.

But their hopes of progressing to the knockout stage hung in the balance following defeats by Switzerland, a game Kelly started, and Portugal, one he watched from the bench.

Restored to the starting line-up for the do-or-die clash with Croatia in Koper, Kelly played his part as England defended a 2-0 lead as the clock ticked into added time.

But disaster struck when Domagoj Bradaric’s stunning strike made it 2-1, England eliminated on goal difference despite winning their final group game.

While Kelly’s tenth cap may have been his last for the under-21s, he knows his club form will dictate whether he can join the exciting array of young talent at Gareth Southgate’s disposal.

Kelly told afcb.co.uk: “We know we didn’t hit the benchmarks we should have with the squad we had and it was a difficult one to take.

“Going into the final game, we weren’t in the best position. We needed to win by two clear goals and also hope Portugal beat Switzerland. As it turned out, we didn’t progress.

“It was definitely a learning curve. I’ve been included in the past two under-21 Euros and I’ll take some of the lessons I learned into the games that follow.

“You can see what Gareth Southgate has done in terms of a pathway for younger players. It’s a lot more open now.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re playing or which league you’re playing in. He has selected players other managers wouldn’t necessarily have picked. My aim is to be consistent with my club and, hopefully, that chance will come.”

Kelly has certainly hit the ground running during pre-season, training hard and turning in impressive displays during friendlies against Real Balompedica Linense, Granada and Chelsea, donning the captain’s armband in all three games.

“I’m in a very good place at the moment,” said Kelly. “It’s a new beginning and everyone is in a good mind frame and enjoying pre-season.

“Since the new gaffer has come in, we’ve adapted to his playing philosophy and style of play, both in and out of possession.

“You know it is always going to be tough at this time of year but, at the same time, everyone is enjoying it and we’ve taken a lot from the games we’ve played.

“The gaffer wants us to focus on the finer details of what we do, in and out of possession. It’s all down to the minute details and those details can make a big difference.

“He wants us to perform at the highest level and he wants us to do it with tempo. He wants us to press as a team and play front foot and exciting football.”

Kelly will be hoping to help the Cherries progress when they host MK Dons in the first round of the Carabao Cup at Vitality Stadium on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

The 22-year-old has fond memories of the competition having reached the semi-finals with former club Bristol City in 2017/18 and skippered the Cherries for the first time in last season’s penalty shootout win over Crystal Palace in the second round.

“I’ve got a lot of good memories looking back over the cup games I’ve played in,” added Kelly. “I also made my professional debut in the Carabao Cup. I’ll be looking to make many more memories going forward.

“The most exciting thing about the cups is you never know what to expect. Any team can turn up on the day and get a positive result.

“We want to perform and show what we’re going to be about this season. It should be an exciting game and it will be great to have the fans back in as well.”

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