AS the punches flew amid the chaos in Serbia this week that dragged football back towards the dark ages, Ben Amos was too busy trying to fend off the blows to savour qualification for the European Championships.
A few days on, however, and safely back in Yorkshire, the 22-year-old goalkeeper admits England Under-21s clinching a place at next summer’s finals in Israel is a “big deal”.
Not just for him but also the country as Stuart Pearce’s side look to make up for the disappointment of last year when they failed to get past the group stages.
Coming on the back of an appearance in the 2009 final, England’s failure to win any of their three group games in last year’s tournament was a major setback. Now, after edging out Serbia over two legs, the Three Lions can look forward to taking on the cream of Europe next summer and Amos has one major personal target.
“I want to start for England in the Championships,” the City loanee, who was an unused substitute in Serbia on Tuesday night, told the Yorkshire Post.
“The manager favours (Birmingham City’s) Jack Butland at the moment but it is up to me to try and change that. The Championships are a big deal. There is so much top-class talent at this level and it would great to test myself against that if the chance comes around next summer.”
As scuffles broke out at the final whistle in Krusevac on Tuesday night, Amos quickly became embroiled as the visitors were confronted by Serbia players, coaches and spectators.
In the ugly melee that followed, goalkeeping coach Martin Thomas was head-butted and assistant head coach Steve Wigley – once Nick Barmby’s assistant at Hull – kicked in the stomach. Butland, who during the game had been pelted with smoke flares and a seat, was also targeted as he led Danny Rose, the former Leeds junior bombarded with vile racist abuse, away from the trouble.
Amos, in common with his England team-mates, has been ordered by the Football Association not to discuss the trouble.
However, on the 1-0 win that booked a place at next summer’s Championships, the City loanee said: “It was a tough encounter and they really came at us.
“Serbia were a physical, dynamic team that played on the edges of the law with their tackles. So, we were all delighted to get through.
“The most important thing was always the result. We maybe should have put it to bed earlier but we were all pleased to get it done in the end (via Connor Wickham’s stoppage time winner).
“Obviously, I didn’t play and that was disappointing. But it is still good to witness the atmospheres and see what is at stake in these kind of games. So, in that sense, it was still good to be involved with the best young players in the country.”
For now, Amos, whose two starts for the Under-21s have come against Israel in 2011 and Azerbaijan last month, is focusing on Hull and the push to get back to the Premier League.
Brought in by manager Steve Bruce during the summer, the Manchester United loanee is the only Tigers player to feature in every minute of this season’s 12 league and cup outings.
His immediate target is to help City to promotion, while in the long-term he wants to do enough to become first choice at Old Trafford.
At the moment, the Macclesfield-born goalkeeper’s path to the United first team is blocked by David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard – hence why he is currently in his fourth loan stint after similar spells with Peterborough United, Oldham Athletic and Norwegian club Molde.
While at City, Amos has been working closely with the club’s goalkeeping coach Gary Walsh – someone who knows all about trying to make it at Old Trafford after being understudy to Peter Schmeichel early in his career.
Amos said: “Gary is great. He knows my situation because he has been there before. He was No 2 to one of the best goalkeepers in the world (Schmeichel) and he understands what I need to do to give myself the best possible chance of going back to United and knocking the other two off the perch.
“I have got a lot of respect for Walshy and what he has done in the game. His knowledge is second to none and he is a great bloke as well.
“I consider him a friend and we bounce off each other every day. He is working on all parts of my game and looking through all the DVDs. I feel the improvements I have made since the start of the season are really encouraging.
“It is all about fine-tuning my game and getting that decision-making right. You don’t get that unless you are playing games. And for my age, I have not played a massive amount of games. That is why I am here at Hull.”
The most recent of Amos’s dozen games for City came a fortnight ago at Sheffield Wednesday. A 1-0 win meant a rare clean sheet, the club’s first since a goalless draw at Charlton Athletic on the second weekend of the season.
A switch of formation to a more solid 4-4-2 played a big part in Hull looking much more solid with Amos being given far more protection than had been the case in the trio of losses against Leicester City, Peterborough United and Blackpool.
He said: “I felt we looked much more solid from front-to-back, to be honest. I didn’t feel exposed and everyone did their jobs well.
“All that mattered was the win but the impressive thing about the performance was the collective defensive display. Everyone worked together and that hasn’t always happened during the first 10 games.
“The balance just needed tweaking. We were a little bit gung-ho against Blackpool (when losing 3-2 at the KC) so the four at the back against Wednesday made us look a bit more solid.”
City host Ipswich Town today sitting in 10th place.
Amos added: “We are slightly disappointed with our position but we will be up there, I am sure.
“We just needed to iron out a few problems, in terms of defending collectively. But I felt we showed against Wednesday what we can do.”