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Maxwell Willing On The Welsh

16 June 2016

North End goalkeeper Chris Maxwell is fully behind his national side as Wales face England this afternoon.

The two home nations go head to head in the Euro 2016 clash at 2pm, and after spending time with the Wales squad ahead of the tournament, Maxwell is feeling positive Chris Coleman's side's chances in the competition.

The 25-year-old joined the Welsh side for the training camp in Portugal as cover for an injury in the goalkeeping department, and stayed with the squad until the day before their opening game against Sweden.

Speaking of the experience, Maxwell said: "It was incredible, an incredible experience, and one that I've been working towards for the last couple of years.

"I knew the majority of the lads already from previous age groups, so it was good to catch up with them and to experience the senior first team camp first hand as well.

"It was fairly intense, especially in Portugal for the training camp, but then when we went back to Cardiff to prepare for the Sweden game it died down a little bit. It was great to see the team evolving through the week ahead of the trip to France for the Sweden game.

"I was away for two weeks with the team, the cut off point to change the squad due to injury was 48 hours before the first game so I came back then."

Much has been made of the team spirit within the Wales camp, and Maxwell confirmed just how together the group really are.

"It was amazing, every single one of the lads were fully together, they welcomed me with open arms and I felt as if I was a big part of the squad as I'm sure everyone else did.

"I think that #TogetherStronger speaks volumes, it's not just something that they have branded, it's something that they truly believe in and it's fantastic to see. You could see after Gareth Bale scored on Saturday how much it meant to the whole team and they celebrated together and it's certainly something very genuine and it leads to a very positive environment.

"I think we have a great chance to progress in the competition, I think you saw against Belgium in the qualifying, and we showed in the first game, that we have a lot of quality. If we keep it solid at the back and perform at the other end of the pitch then I think it's time for the fans to start dreaming, we will see."

The squad are sure to take confidence from their win in the first game, and will be hoping to build on that against England in the second group game.

"They are a confident bunch already after a fantastic qualifying campaign, beating the likes of Belgium, and keeping so many clean sheets. I think that first win will take any of the nerve away and it was vitally important that they got a good start which they have done and it leads to the prospect of a great game against England on Thursday. 

"I think Joe Allen quoted it in the week that they weren't through if they won the game, but they weren't out of it if they lost it. With the other game being a draw, Wales are in the driving seat but I don't think that will lead to complacency. There is an experienced bunch there as well as a lot of youth in the team and the quality of the staff won't let the lads get complacent. The three and a half million people who are desperate to beat England will also play a part though!

"It's a massive game for both teams in a major international tournament and one that both teams are looking to do well in. I will be watching as a Wales fan and desperate for Wales to win and it should be an interesting contest.

"I think with England's quality they will look to dominate the game as they did against Russia, but with the defensive shape that Wales have they are very solid and tough to break down. Also with the fantastic quality of the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, Wales are very threatening on the counter attack so it should be interesting."

Gareth Bale is regarded as one of the best players in the world, and the former Fleetwood Town stopper admits it was an honour to be able to train with one of the greats of the game at present.

"It was amazing to see in my opinion one of the three best players in the world performing close up. I prefered him on my team in training I can tell you that!

"Playing against him was also something I thoroughly enjoyed, I relished the challenge of that, especially as a goalkeeper playing against a striker, you aspire to test yourself against the best. It was a fantastic experience and one I have learnt valuable lessons from.

"He is one of the lads on the training pitch and on the main stage, but more importantly he's one of the lads around the camp as well. He's a normal guy with bags of ability and bags of talent which the world have recognised. It's very pleasing to see someone like that doing so well and being so genuine as well."

Although he has left the squad, Maxwell will be keeping a close eye on the game on Thursday and has kept in touch with the squad ahead of the game.

"I will be watching the game over in Greece with about 50 England fans I think, with my missus' side of the family. So I will be celebrating if we win put it that way!

"There's a group message going which includes the whole team which I'm still a part of, so the few of us that didn't make the final squad have been wishing them luck and it's great. It's exciting times!"

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