MATTHEW Shiels is welcoming the challenge of his first season of under-20s football and cannot wait for the youngsters’ new exciting international games programme.

Graeme Murty’s Development Squad will play teams from across Europe after opting out of the SPFL league which is a test Shiels is welcoming.

The 20s played two games in Northern Ireland last week and travel to Nuneaton this weekend to take on PSV Eindhoven and Wolves in a tournament to continue their pre-season preparations.

The 17-year-old said: “It was good getting the experience over in Northern Ireland, it is a different type of football.

“Against Ards it was more of a challenge because they were more physical and right in about us, whereas Portadown played more football. So it was two different experiences.

“It will be a challenge playing against, again, men’s teams this weekend so it is more physical then last season when I was playing under 17s. We just need to step up, play our own game and not get involved in theirs.

“It is a new challenge travelling away to different countries; it is not going up to Aberdeen or going to Motherwell.

“It is something different rather than playing weaker sides in Scotland, I think we will get more out of it.”

Shiels will embark on his first full season as an under-20 this year and while he is predicting a tough step-up he is hoping to catch Pedro Caixinha’s eye too.

He continued: “I have stepped up to the under-20s this season and it is different playing under a new coach in Murts. I need to step up because it is a bigger level with older boys and new demands.

“I’d like to stay in the team and hopefully get round to train with the first-team. By the end of this season or the start of next I’d like to be pushing on and round there more.

“It’s been a bit of a lift seeing academy players going round to the first-team side and they are obviously doing well so when they come back to the academy it has an effect on the rest of the boys.”

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