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Dartford FC defender Keaton Wood joins up with the England C squad this weekend

By Steve Tervet

Dartford’s Keaton Wood is set for his England C debut this weekend – after postponing a holiday with his girlfriend to make himself available.

The defender, 21, was called up for international duty after impressing for the Darts in National League South this season.

Wood and England face the Panjab FA at Solihull Moors on Sunday before flying to Jersey for another game on Tuesday.

Keaton Wood in conversation with Dartford manager Tony Burman Picture: Andy Payton
Keaton Wood in conversation with Dartford manager Tony Burman Picture: Andy Payton

He said: "I’m humbled to be called up. I’m not going to lie, I was taken completely by surprise.

"The chairman and the gaffer told me to expect something. A few days went past and I got an email and things moved on from there.

"I thought I had a good season but apparently I did very well.

"Funnily enough, my girlfriend had booked a holiday that I had to move. I did tell her that booking holidays in advance is a risky business so she knows now!

"She understood. She’s happy for me and she knows how much this means to me. She’s behind me 100%.

"We booked it for a week later so she’s still going! To play another couple of games, especially at that level, is going to be good."

Wood, released by Millwall last summer, started 35 league games this season and has already signed a new deal at Dartford.

He said: "Coming out of professional football, it was a transition but I’d definitely say it was a success, even though we got as far as we did and didn’t get over the final hurdle.

"Everybody pulled their weight and I enjoyed it. It’s a great group of guys and we all want the same thing. For me, there’s nothing better than that.

"I think I’ve matured, especially playing in multiple positions. I’ve now embraced the fact that I’m quite versatile and Tony (Burman) is always talking about it.

Keaton Wood makes a tackle against Dover Picture: Andy Jones
Keaton Wood makes a tackle against Dover Picture: Andy Jones

"Left centre-half is my best position and the gaffer knows that but we’ve got two very strong lads (Ronnie Vint and Tom Bonner) playing at centre-half and I put myself in that category with them.

"What’s really good is that the gaffer trusts me to to do a job and he knows I can perform a job to a very good standard wherever that may be - left-back, centre-half, right-back or even centre-mid sometimes this season.

"It’s really good to have the gaffer’s trust in my ability. Coming to a new club, a new environment, having the gaffer behind you and pushing you and trusting you is really important.

"I’ve had to learn how to win games and I’ve learnt what it means to lose, especially in games such as the play-off semi-final."

Wood coaches in Southampton's academy and lives in the city, commuting to Kent from the south coast for training and matches.

He said: "It sometimes can be a good three hours of traffic around the M3 and M25 but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do for the game you love.

"The chance to work in such a prestigious academy was too good an opportunity to turn down. I’m a university intern at the moment and I work from under-8 up to under-18, mostly been involved with the under-14s and towards the older age-groups next year is where I’m looking to move towards, more of a job role with more responsibility.

"Southampton want me to continue playing. They wouldn’t want me to give up. They think I bring an element of difference to the club because I can relate to the players a bit better."

He added: "I didn’t have any contact (from other clubs) and I didn’t expect to have any. I knew where I wanted to be next year and that was it. I went with Tony one Friday and laid down what I needed, I put my case forward about multiple positions and where I live.

"We had a chat, he offered what he offered, I came back on Monday, we did a bit of negotiating and came to a deal. I knew exactly where I wanted to be next season.

"Maybe I could have held out until after the England game or until I came back from holiday but I owed the club a bit more. I didn’t want to play anywhere else."

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