Chris Mepham: From Sunday League football to the Rose Bowl

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Chris Mepham delighted after first Wales start

Wales defender Chris Mepham says he has to "pinch himself" after playing in front of an 80,000 crowd at California's Rose Bowl stadium.

The 20-year-old's remarkable rise has seen him go from Sunday League football to making his first international start in the draw against Mexico.

Released by Chelsea at 14, he was playing for North Greenford reserves before Brentford offered him a route back into professional football.

"It's been a whirlwind," he said.

Chris Mepham of Brentford and Josh Murphy of Norwich City
Mepham had a breakthrough season in the Championship with Brentford

"It's only when you have a bit of time to look back that you go 'wow, what an incredible journey it's been.'

"I just hope I can keep that going, stay grounded and focused and see where I go."

Mepham made his senior Wales debut in the China Cup in March, having been capped at both under 20 and under 21 level.

But his first start in the friendly in Pasadena presented an even tougher test when he lost his more senior centre-back partner, Wales captain Ashley Williams, after just 20 minutes.

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Highlights: Mexico 0-0 Wales

"Ash is a natural leader on the pitch, he gets the team going and organises everyone," said Hammersmith-born Mepham, who qualifies for Wales through his father's parents.

"So losing him left us with quite a few inexperienced players and it was important I stepped up to the plate.

"I made sure I organised things myself and it was amazing.

"In football you always want to play at the highest level and I've got a taste of that now."

Mepham added the clean sheet made the result even better, and hopefully that game with be the "first of many caps".