Interviews

Stern: I want England to win and Verbruggen to play well

Our goalkeeping coach on Bart's improvement and tonight's Euros semi-final.

By Bruce Talbot • 10 July 2024

By Paul Hazlewood
Jack Stern has been impressed with Bart Verbruggen's performances at the Euros.

Goalkeeping coach Jack Stern admits he will have mixed emotions when he watches England take on the Netherlands in tonight’s Euros semi-final in Dortmund.

Like any proud Englishman, he wants Gareth Southgate to lead England to a second successive Euros final – but he’d love Verbruggen to have the game of his life as well.

Bart has been first-choice keeper for the Netherlands at the tournament at the age of 21 and with just a year’s Premier League experience under his belt.

By Paul Hazlewood
Bart Verbruggen and goalkeeping coach Jack Stern.

“It certainly will be a strange emotion for me personally watching the game,” said Jack. “I don't think I will have ever watched an England game with a foot in the other camp a little bit.

“I'm of course hoping that he has a good performance and also hoping that England win the game.”

Verbruggen’s debut Albion campaign saw him make 28 appearances all competitions last season.

“He’s a 21 year old, but he doesn't play like a 21 year old,” added Jack. “You could be speaking to a guy who's 27, 28. He's got a very strong head on his shoulders and that has helped him so much adapting at such a young age to the Premier League and now, of course, at the European Championships. Without that maturity I don't think he'd be doing as well as he is right now.

“One concern that we had last season was do we overexpose Bart if we throw him straight in when you either sink or swim. We're now seeing the reward for that. I'm sure he wanted to play a lot more games, as did Jason Steele, but it helped his development and I think he's in a good place now because of that.

“His focus and the way that he prepares for games is top level.

“There's never any more pressure than when you're playing for your country at a major international tournament, especially towards the final stages, so for him to learn at a very young age how to deal with that and to manage it well is brilliant.

"He's got great people around him to help support him in those situations, and I think his experiences in Germany can accelerate his development even quicker.”