CALLUM McManaman is hoping his experiences at the Under-20s World Cup this summer will help him to make the grade with Wigan Athletic in the Premier League.
The 20-year-old is back in town after helping England through to the last 16 over in Colombia, where they bowed out 1-0 to Nigeria.
It was a disappointing end to the campaign for Brian Eastick’s men, who negotiated a tough group including North Korea, Argentina and Mexico to reach the knockout stages.
But at least the early exit meant McManaman, and Latics team-mate Lee Nicholls, could return home to bolster the Latics squad for the new campaign.
And McManaman – a distant cousin of former England star Steve – is targeting a first-team breakthrough after fleeting glimpses in cup competitions last term.
“I have spoken to the gaffer since I’ve been back, and we’ve set a few targets for myself for the new season,” McManaman told the Observer.
“The first one has to be getting into the first team on a regular basis, and I think that’s achievable.
“The gaffer’s been spot on with me since the word go, and it’s up to me now to kick on and make the next step.
“Although I’ve missed some of the fitness work, I feel fitter than I have in any other pre-season because I’ve already played four matches.
“As a young lad you just want to play every week anyway, and I can’t wait to get going again.”
McManaman was the second-most experienced man in the England squad that travelled to South America, and he played a pivotal role in the Young Lions getting as far as they did.
That said, he was left with an empty feeling at the manner of England’s eventual exit. “It was a very good experience overall for me, I enjoyed it a lot,” he said.
“I learned so much from it, travelling the world and representing my country in a big tournament.
“But it was gutting we didn’t go any further – absolutely gutting.
“We did well to get through the group stage, but we just lacked that little cutting edge, that little something to have taken us further.
“We got to the knockout stages, but we definitely under-achieved, we definitely could have done better. But it wasn’t to be.
“The atmosphere over there was amazing, so loud and it was great conditions to play under.
“It was enjoyable being in camp, the banter with the lads was great and I got on with all of them.
“It was great to have Lee (Nicholls) there as well – it was good to have a familiar face over there, although he did my head in at times, being in the same room as him,” he joked.
Roberto Martinez has already hinted McManaman’s development will be speeded up by his experiences in Colombia.
And the versatile forward – who scored a magical goal at Hull in the FA Cup last January – is keen to make his presence felt at first-team level.
“It’s good to be back and hopefully I’ll be able to kick on now and force my way into the squad for the weekend,” he added.
“I suppose it is a bit daunting, but you have to take it in your stride and look forward to it.
“After Hull I started training with the first team full-time.
“I’m now in the first-team dressing room with my own number, and there’s no looking back now.
“I’m not a young kid any more – I need to try and play a bigger role and I feel I’m ready to do that.”