Sanders tips Matt to be a real catch for England

Matt Barnett has been selected for England under-18s
Matt Barnett has been selected for England under-18s
jpns-12-08-17 retro 2017 anglers''Anglers - Kathleen Harrison, from Milton, with her 1lb nine-and-a-half-ounce catch. She was another one of the winners in the Southsea children's sea angling competition

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Matt Barnett stunned his elders to become the youngest member of the England under-18s squad for the World Championships in Slovenia.

At just 15 years of age, he will be the baby of the team who will travel to Radece to fish the competition on the River Sava from July 28.

Team boss Steve Sanders has no worries about Barnett’s ability to step up against his older rivals, though.

A brilliant performance in the trials at Gold Valley Lakes in Aldershot did enough to suggest he would not be overawed.

And while Sanders reckons the match on foreign water will be an eye-opener, he is sure the south-coast starlet has the talent to succeed and help fire England into the medals.

Sanders said: ‘We are taking a young team this year.

‘Most of the guys I have are between 15 and 17 – they just seem to have more potential.

‘I selected Matt simply because he was good enough.

‘He was outstanding in the trials where he caught 10lb more fish than the guy next to him.

‘The World Championships will be a big culture shock for all of them, though. It’s on a river that’s 100 metres wide and four or five metres deep – we don’t fish like that over here.

‘But we are ranked number one in the world in this age group, so a medal would be nice.’

Barnett, who represents Milo Bordon in the Avon Valley Summer League, was thrilled when he learned of his call-up.

But he has admitted it is yet to really sink in.

The teenager said: ‘To represent your country at your given sport is an amazing feeling. It still hasn’t sunk in yet.

‘I’m just so happy but the hard work starts from here.’

The changeable conditions in Slovenia will provide Barnett with a new challenge.

But his dad – and long-time fishing partner – Shaun believes he can conquer the new environment.

He said: ‘A river can change over night and Matt will have to rise to the challenge.

‘He is a big, young lad, though, and he can handle himself.

‘He has been out-fishing guys years older than him for a while.’

And while Barnett is keeping his feet firmly on the ground, there is no doubt he has a bright future.

‘His long-term plan is to fish for England seniors,’ added his dad.

‘He has a few sponsors backing him, which is always helpful, and the plan is to see if he can make a living out of it.’

Sanders added: ‘Fishing can be a cruel sport. You can only catch what’s in front of you and sometimes it is disheartening.

‘He is a great, young prospect, though, and it would be unusual if Matt didn’t continue with the talent he has shown.’