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Brayden Clarke hoping to be guiding light at UEFA U17 EURO

(Pic by John Smith/FAW)

Brayden Clarke is hoping to be a guiding light for his Cymru teammates at the 2024 UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals in Cyprus.

Clarke, who is 16, played every minute of the 2023 tournament in Hungary and is the only player from last year’s squad to be selected again.

The Arsenal defender is also the first player to represent Cymru at two UEFA U17 EURO finals.

And now he wants to pass on his experience to the rest of the group as they get set for their first appearance at a major tournament.

“I’m really excited to have another great opportunity out in Cyprus with the lads. I think the all-round experience in Hungary was big for me, especially as a young player,” said Clarke.

“I think I can take the experience and explain to the other players how it will be because it’s a big tournament for us all involved.

“I’ve had a conversation with Craig Knight about it because obviously I’m the only one who had the experience last year. I think I can take big learnings from it and hopefully be more of a lead.

“It’s a proud moment and I’ve been reminded by my family about being the first player to be in two U17 Euro finals. Every time I put on the shirt I feel proud and confident to perform.”

Cymru were drawn in Group B in this year’s tournament and will face three games in six days in Cyprus.

Knight’s side kick off their tournament against Denmark on Monday 20 May before meeting with Austria three days later. Their final group stage fixture comes against Croatia on Sunday 26 May.

“We’ve done well in the qualifiers and the elites and we’ve pushed on as a group, so we’re all confident for the next few weeks ahead.

“All three games are tough games for us because they’re three big nations. They performed well in the qualifying rounds but I think for us as a group, we’re all confident we can get good results to hopefully push out of the group.”

Clarke has spent most of his youth career at Wolves before departing to join Arsenal earlier this year.

And after settling into a new environment in north London, the centre-back – who has featured regularly for the Gunners’ under-18 side this season – wants to kick on for club and country.

“It’s been a different experience because I was with Wolves for seven or eight years. Going from there to a new experience with a big club like Arsenal has been a big change but I’ve enjoyed it.

“The staff and players have been brilliant with me and I think I’ve performed well on the pitch, which is a big thing for me.

“I’m just looking forward to pushing on for the club and also here with Wales.”