Burnley's Michael Keane talks about his dream Wembley debut, Barcelona, his parents watching his international bow from a beach and Sean Dyche's words of wisdom!
Michael Keane had been to Wembley twice as a spectator hoping that one day he would too get the chance to play on the hallowed turf of the national stadium.
The centre back had won the Youth Cup with Manchester United just days before his first visit to the capital having beaten Sheffield United 6-3 on aggregate in a two-legged final.
But the senior side couldn’t emulate that glory as a masterclass from Messi, David Villa, Pedro, Xavi and Andres Iniesta saw Barcelona prevail in the Champions League final.
By the time Keane’s second visit to Wembley arrived the former Old Trafford professional had established himself as a regular in Sean Dyche’s XI with the Clarets.
Just 24 hours before witnessing United’s last gasp win over Everton in the FA Cup semi-final the 24-year-old was in action at Deepdale as Joey Barton’s free kick pushed Burnley closer to the Championship title.
“I went to the Champions League final between United and Barcelona a few years ago and Barcelona put on a masterclass,” he said.
“I remember watching them thinking ‘wow’ and how good it would be to play there on an occasion like that.
“I went to the FA Cup semi-final last year to watch United when they won in the last minute. It’s a special place with the history of Wembley throughout the years. It’s an unbelievable stadium so to play there is a dream come true.”
Keane was given the opportunity to live out his dream on his competitive England bow, featuring at the heart of the defence in a back four alongside John Stones as the Three Lions saw off Lithuania in a World Cup qualifier.
“It was incredible,” he said. “I’ve been there a few times watching finals and it’s always been a dream of mine to play there, to do it for your country is a big honour.
“It was a dream come true, it’s cringe to say it but it literally is. Walking out onto the pitch before we even changed it was like ‘wow’. It’s huge and the pitch is unbelievable.
“To step out there with all those fans behind you is incredible.”
It was also a proud moment for Keane’s parents who, having found a window in the domestic schedule, had pre-booked a holiday.
The pair were in Barbados as their son bestowed the most memorable of Mother’s Day gifts.
“My brothers were there and my friends,” he recalled. “My mum and dad were actually on holiday, they booked a holiday for the international break thinking they wouldn’t miss any football.
“They were on a beach in Barbados watching the games. They’re gutted they couldn’t be there but over the moon and really proud.
“I had a lot of friends and other family there too.”
Keane was first called up to Gareth Southgate’s squad last October as a late replacement for the injured Glen Johnson for Group F games against Malta and Slovenia.
The defender watched from the sidelines again throughout his second selection as England beat Scotland before drawing with Spain, a game in which team mate Tom Heaton earned his second international cap.
But it was third time lucky as he became the first outfield Burnley player to represent the nation since Martin Dobson in 1974 as he was given the nod, in an unfamiliar role on the right hand side of a back three, against Germany at Borussia Dortmund’s Signal-Iduna-Park.
“It’s been an unbelievable week,” Keane said. “I went into the week hoping I’d get a bit of game time but to play two full games has been very special for me.
“It’s been a bit stressful week, I’ve been under pressure, but I’ve loved every minute of it and thankfully I’ve come out and done well.
“It’s not easy but to make your England debut away in Germany but it’s something I’ll never forget. It was a special night for me. It’s been an unforgettable week and a great experience.”
Keane performed admirably, receiving high praise from an array of former internationals in the aftermath, and he admits that the words of wisdom from his ‘gaffer’ at club level in the build up to the fixture helped him settle.
“When the team gets named I find it hard to sleep at night,” he confessed. “I thought to myself ‘keep it simple’ at first.
“I was playing an unfamiliar three at the back which I haven’t played for three years, so I was a bit cautious how it would go.
“I focused in the team meetings on my positioning and it was good for me to play alongside experienced players, that helped me out a lot and they were always talking to me.
“I built my way into the game which the manager here told me to do, he sent me a text and said ‘start off nice and easy and build your way in’ and that’s what I did.
“He was wishing me all the best and giving me little bits of advice to work my way into the game slowly and that’s what I did, I built on the basics and just did everything I do here at Burnley. I didn’t treat it any differently, I prepared in the same way.
“My confidence grew from that and I ended up doing well.”