After receiving a call-up to represent Wales U18s school boys, Joseph Baston has his sights set on making his mark on the international stage.
The striker, who plays in the CEFA (Community & Education Football Alliance) League, starred in the 0-0 draw against Australia in January, and says it was an honour to receive the call.
“To play international football is an honour really, isn’t it? You don’t take moments like that for granted. I have been to a few trials in the past and was unsuccessful, but I was determined to get into it on that occasion,” he said.
“It was a bit daunting, getting to know the lads and their styles, but the surroundings were very professional and I just loved it, to be honest.
“The game itself was very good, it was a very physical game, the weather conditions were horrendous actually. We drew 0-0 in the end, but it was a good result against a very strong team.”
Baston made his debut in that game and impressed the manager of the U18s team, so much so that he has been called up again, this time heading to Rome, Italy to take on the Azzurri.
He adds that he has put in the work on and off the pitch to get himself into prime position to represent his country on a consistent basis.
“I have put the work in this year. For example, when some of the boys have been going out, I’ve been staying in and going to the gym, and staying behind in training doing extra bits,” he adds.
“Once you get that call-up you start to feel like all the hard work that you put in, all those hours in the gym, have been worth it, because something good is happening.
“Now, I’m having the opportunity to go to Rome to play against Italy and Azerbaijan, getting more caps under my belt and playing more competitive football.”
The CEFA League was introduced in 2018 and, through the competition, students are able to achieve their education goals while playing competitive football for their local club.
Baston, who has come through the Newport County CEFA ranks, has nothing but praise for the competition and says he wouldn’t have the opportunities he has had without signing up to the course.
He said: “There are a lot of opportunities that come out of playing in the CEFA League, especially with the link with County in the Community as well. The people behind the scenes want the best for you and they are top class.
“If I didn’t come on the course, I wouldn’t have all these opportunities with the Welsh schools and going off to America later on this year to play football out there full-time.
“We missed out on the league title last season by a couple of points and it looks like we’re going for a league and cup double this season, which is promising.
“The education side of it as well is first-class. Obviously if things don’t work out on the footballing side for whatever reason, you still come out with an equivalent of three A-levels - you always have those to fall back on if needs be.”
The Welsh national team is littered with current EFL players such as defender Tom Lockyer, midfielder Joe Allen and striker Kieffer Moore, and it is the latter who Baston wishes to emulate.
He added: “I look at someone like Keiffer Moore and I see a lot of similarities between myself and him. He’s a big striker like myself, and he wasn’t really on the radar of international football and he gets called up, and has done an outstanding job for us.
“Everyone would love to play for their country and you know the Welsh national team are looking for young Welsh lads to come in and showcase the talents that they have.
“Since I was little I have always wanted to be a professional footballer and I have worked hard to get myself into a position where that dream could become a reality. Now that I am on the international stage, the steps are in place, hopefully to go on and do that.”