Daily Echo:

JAMES Ward-Prowse's England Under-21s career may have ended in heartbreak – but he insists the Young Lions' run to the semi-final of the European Championships will make him and the team "better people and players".

Saints midfielder Ward-Prowse captained the side to the last four in Poland, where they lost 4-3 in a penalty shootout to Germany, with St Mary's colleague Nathan Redmond missing the crucial spot kick.

It ended four years with the under-21s for Ward-Prowse, during which the 22-year-old helped the youngsters win the Toulon Tournament in 2016, claiming 31 caps along the way.

“We come away with our heads held high,” he said.

“We’re proud of the way we prepared ourselves for every game and we’ve had to overcome some difficult times but that’s the kind of character that we’ve got.

“But everybody, collectively and individually will learn from this experience.

“We’re young players and have great pride in wearing the England shirt and we gave everything. You could see towards the end that we were pulling each other through and we showed our spirit.

“But everyone from this group will come out of this and go into the next season having learned a lot and be better people and players for it.

“Overall, over the last couple of weeks, everybody has developed as a player.

“You can see from the young players throughout the league that they do well when they get given the chance and there are lads in the seniors right now who we have played with and been given a chance.

“To get this experience, can only help us.”

This moment marked an end of under-21s football for the quartet of Saints men at the tournament, with Redmond, Jack Stephens and Matt Targett now all over age.

Following a 2-2 draw after extra time, it went to a shootout in Tychy, which is something Ward-Prowse says Aidy Boothroyd's side had been practising and felt prepared for.

“It’s a difficult thing to take. We put a lot of preparation into it, but it just wasn’t meant to be,” said Ward-Prowse.

“We’ve practised during the weeks leading up to this and sometimes, the keeper can do well, but we have to learn from these experiences to make us stronger.

“We’re obviously disappointed, the reaction in the changing rooms is that everybody is proud of themselves and whilst it wasn’t the outcome that we wanted tonight, we gave ourselves the best chance to win the game.

“We had to keep our heads up, we had to give ourselves the best chance and no-one has any regrets about the way we worked to get where we are.

“Tonight just wasn’t our night.”