Zat targets England

Monday 9 September 2002

After putting in a number of impressive performances for David Platt's England under-21 side this summer, the young defender has now declared his ambition to break into Sven Goran Eriksson's side.

Zat's exclusion from Platt's recent under-21 side, along with Sean Davis, caused many a raised eyebrow amongst Fulham fans. However, the reason for this was simple as Zat explained:

"I can still play in the friendlies for the under-21 side but I'm now too old to play in the qualifying matches. So there's not much point in me playing if I'm not going to be able to play for the first team. I'd just be taking up someone else's place."

With only a handful of first team appearances under his belt, Zat's call up to the under-21 squad gave him the opportunity to gather some vital first team experience away from the stresses and strains of Premiership football.

It's quite rare to see an under-21 international taking the field who is not yet a full regular for his club. Nonetheless, Knight feels that his involvement in the international set up helped him greatly when he returned to training with Fulham.

"It's definitely developed my game, I really enjoyed it and I gained some useful experience which I brought into the first team at Fulham," said Zat.

"Hopefully I can keep going well in training and bring that on to the pitch. There's a lot more competition for places at Fulham and hopefully I'll be up there in the manager's thinking.

"I think I played well in the two appearances I made so far, so hopefully that has given the Gaffer more confidence in me."

Yet Zat's path to making a full international appearance is far from straightforward. With Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell already established as Eriksson's central defensive partnership, other players such as Gareth Southgate, Jonathan Woodgate and John Terry are also in contention.

However, as Zat recognises, it's important that he doesn't get too far ahead to himself. Making his name a regular fixture on Fulham's team sheet is going to be his first priority.

"First of all I'm aiming at being a regular in the Fulham first team," said Knight.

"If I'm playing well in the first team then you never know. There are a some players who have played a few games for their clubs, like Michael Ricketts and Darius Vassell last season, who then got called straight into the England squad.

"It is a bit easier because when you're a youngster and if you've already played for the under-21s, you're classed as 'one for the future. David Platt has told me that he's had a word with Sven, so I hope he'll be following my progress."

The fact that Zat has already put on an England shirt with not too many first team appearances to his name must surely be a good sign. There's no question that he has the ability and ambition to be able to break into the England squad. It's now just a matter of time.