Lita reflects on missed chance
Leroy Lita has recalled the roller-coaster ride he experienced for England U21s in the last European Championship.
By Steve Pass
Last Updated: 08/06/09 2:46pm
Leroy Lita has recalled the roller-coaster ride he experienced for England U21s in their last European Championship campaign.
The striker - who is now a free agent after being released by Reading - was part of the squad which agonizingly lost 13-12 on penalties to hosts Holland in the semi-finals of the competition two years ago.
Although Lita missed a late penalty against Czech Republic in the goalless first group game, he then scored in each of England's next three games - the 2-2 draw with Italy, a 2-0 win over Serbia and then the 1-1 draw with Holland.
Lita told Sky Sports News that he was always pushing manager Stuart Pearce to pick him and he thought he had done well against the Czechs even though he missed the penalty.
Regarding the miss, he said: "It gave you a taste of what the senior boys go through when they go to big tournaments.
"Obviously it was disappointing, I'd have loved to put it away but it was one of those things - you either hide or come back stronger and I think I came back stronger.
"People got hold of my number as well I remember and I had loads of texts and answer phone messages, a little bit of abuse.
"But things like that just drive you on, people don't realise that."
Lita then made a "shush" gesture to his critics after he scored against Italy.
"I just went over to the camera and just sent a little message to the people who texted me a little bit of abuse," he said.
"You always get the last say on the pitch and that's the great thing about football. People could talk outside as much as they want but you have the last say on the pitch."
Lita agreed that he thought England would go on and win the tournament before the semi-final loss to the Dutch.
"Without a doubt, I think with that squad, perhaps we should have (won) - that was a strong team and squad," he said.
But he also believed the team did well in the game given the circumstances.
"It was a bit unlucky, two players went down and Steven Taylor playing with one leg so considering all that, I think we did well."
Lita was not on the pitch for the protracted penalty shoot-out but admits to feeling nerves on the sidelines before Anton Ferdinand hit the bar to put England out.
"We were all nervous and just praying to God that we get the win and when they missed, we missed, they scored, we scored and it went on forever.
"We were a better team - in the changing-room all the lads were disappointed and a lot of upset players as you'd expect.
"It was a great experience and it just drives you on and say next time you're in this position, hopefully with the senior team, you go that step more."