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All White takes part in U-20 camp

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The New Zealand U-20 men’s team have been joined at their training base in Gniewino, Poland in recent days by former All White Chris James as part of his personal development.

James reached out to head coach Des Buckingham to see if he could observe the preparation camp in the lead up to the FIFA U-20 World Cup and made his visit last week upon the team’s arrival.

His inclusion in the group is the latest in a series of invitations from Buckingham to players to work with the U-20 squad in an effort to link past, current and future.

Prior to departure from New Zealand, Buckingham had also invited former youth internationals and current All Whites Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi and Myer Bevan to speak about their experiences at the 2015 and 2017 U-20 World Cups.

James was introduced to the squad on day one of the camp with a traditional Maori welcome led by the New Zealand-based group, building on the cultural foundations started during a pre-tour camp in Auckland.

The midfielder was impressed with the off-field aspects of the World Cup preparations, commenting that was his biggest learning from his time with Buckingham and his charges.

"My number one take away from the camp has been how powerful developing a culture within a team environment can be, not only with the players but also with the staff," James said.

"Bringing that cultural aspect will now form a cornerstone in my own coaching philosophy moving forward."

James was also hands on with the staff and players on the training pitch in the lead up to a 1-1 draw in a friendly match with the Korea Republic.

"It was great to be able to contribute on the pitch as well and learn from Des and the technical staff. I believe it is important for my own coaching development to reach out to others and see how they work, and especially to gain some insight and knowledge at the international level," he said.

"I’m really thankful to Des and the staff for being so open and sharing so much with me during my time in Poland."

Now approaching his 32nd birthday, the well-travelled James has an extensive playing CV, having spent time as a professional in England, Finland, France and the United States. He played 23 matches and scored three goals in an All Whites shirt, two of those strikes coming in the two-legged international continental play-off for the 2014 FIFA World Cup against Mexico. He was also a member of the New Zealand squad at the U-20 World Cup in Canada in 2007.

James has no plans to hang up his playing boots just yet and is eyeing opportunities in the United States for the year ahead.

"Coming away and spending time with the players and seeing the excitement and the culture that is building has reinvigorated me to really get back into my football, whether it is playing or coaching longer term."

The New Zealand U-20 men’s team continue their preparations for the FIFA U-20 World Cup with a friendly against Mexico on Saturday (NZT).

FIFA U-20 World Cup

Honduras vs New Zealand

Saturday 25 May, 4am NZT

Lublin Stadium, Lublin

Live on SKY Sport

Norway vs New Zealand

Tuesday 28 May, 6.30am NZT

Lodz Stadium, Lodz

Live on SKY Sport

New Zealand vs Uruguay

Friday 31 May, 4am NZT

Lodz Stadium, Lodz

Live on SKY Sport

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