Orford captains England MU18s to Tri-Nations Trophy glory

It was a weekend of huge honour for two exciting prospects from the Academy of Football.

West Ham United duo Lewis Orford and Josh Briggs each took the armband for their respective nations England and Northern Ireland across U18s Tri-Nations Trophy action at St George’s Park.

Orford’s England secured the title - and a trophy lift for the West Ham U21 midfielder - after a crucial 2-1 win over Morocco on Sunday evening in which he played just under 70 minutes.

Lifting silverware for your country was some way to cap the 2023/24 season for the 18-year-old, then.

“When he [England MU18s lead coach Tom Curtis] told me I was the skipper, I couldn’t believe it,” Orford smiled, when asked about taking the armband in England MU18s’ second fixture of the May international window.

“I was really happy, of course, because it’s a real honour. To be captain of your country is one of the biggest things you can do. I texted my family straight away when I found out and they were happy for me.

“It was good to lift the trophy as well and do it with that group around me who I know so well from previous camps. To have your family watching you captain your country was really special, I don’t think it gets better than that!

“I found the international break with England as a really good experience to end the season with. It was a good feeling to come away with the tournament win, it really topped off a good week.”

Earlier in the May window, England had defeated Northern Ireland 4-2 in their first match of the mini-tournament – a fixture in which Orford appeared as a second-half substitute and registered a crucial assist for the Young Lions’ fourth.

Standing opposite Orford was his Club teammate Briggs, who led his country, Northern Ireland, as skipper across both of their fixtures in the Tri-Nations Trophy.

Josh Briggs

For Northern Ireland, the tournament served as a warm-up for the UEFA U19 Euros which take place later this summer.

And while Northern Ireland fell to a 2-1 defeat by Morocco in their other game, even with Briggs on the scoresheet with a second-half header from a well-worked corner, there were plenty of positives to take from the May fixtures.

“It’s a big honour to captain your country,” Briggs stated. “And that’s not lost on me at all. I was really proud to be named skipper for these fixtures. 

“I thought we competed well against two good teams, and in the second game we had a lot of chances, and a missed penalty as well, so we were unlucky not to get a win. 

“For a lot of our group, it was really good practice for the U19 Euros this summer, which we’re obviously looking forward to!”