Welcome back! Refreshed? I am most certainly not. The winter was a busy one. I’ve been to may games on scouting missions to view Tom, Dick and Harry at almost every level.
We also got to witness the draw for the summer spectacle that is the World Cup. We were drawn with Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Spain.
Along side that I went to Russia, no thanks to Greg Clarke, to view the facilities the board have set up for the boys. I took Steve and Cars (Lee Carsley) so we could work out on the perfect set up with the guys for the summer.
We have been given the keys to KamAZ, in Naberezhnye Chelny based in the Republic of Tatarstan. The city is more famous for it’s vehicle production than it’s football. The Russian Second Division side have good facilities. And looks nice and quiet, so hopefully Jamie “the WKD Kid” Vardy will be able to focus on his football rather than sampling different vodkas.
As we broke through the bitter winter back in blighty, we had the spring series of games for the Under 19’s, Under 21’s and Full squad.
The Under 19’s had three intense fixtures in the second round of qualification for the Under 19 European Championships. The boys were drawn in a group with Holland, Germany and Latvia.
The Under 21’s had two friendly fixtures against Hungary and Romania.
And the main squad had two political fixtures that the FA arranged, the first against Team America (USA) and the second against Iran.
The Main Squad saw us recall Tom Heaton after a number of wonderful displays for Burnley. Jesse Lingard and Leon Bailey were recall too, both had shown goals and assists in their last 4 games at their respective clubs.
The Under 21’s saw James Maddison join the group for the first time. And Damarai Gray dropped from the main squad due to Leon Bailey’s blistering form.
We were also given the news that Scotland were sniffing around Angus Gunn. The news broke late after I had announced the squads. If I had been tipped off earlier I would have called the kid up to the main squad to scare McLeish off (the Gordan Ramsey lookalike prat!).
The Under 19’s the squad had to be trimmed from 23 to 20 for this series of games. So we picked many of the boys that were with us in November, but focused on the boys that were versatile. Carl Allsopp of Middleborough is the first regen I have called up for any of the squads under my leadership.
The 16 year old has some promise and potential in the game if he get the necessary guidance and game time.
How did we get on?
The opening fixture of the Spring series saw the Under 21’s take on the Hungarians. A straight forward performance saw a straight forward result. Calvert-Lewin and McTominay the other in a straight forward 2-0 win.
The next match saw the Under 19’s take on the Dutch in the Netherlands. We won 5-3 but it took the Dutch to comeback from two nil down and take the lead before the boys started to play properly. Ben Brereton was the goal machine to reignite the belief in amongst the boys. The fightback and spirit of these boys is brilliant – Sorry Guido but your boys needed more steel to come out on top!
The heavy scheduling for the Under 19’s then saw them take on Latvia. The weaker team of the group and one that was a must win to qualify out of the group. The boys took their confidence from the Dutch game and trashed the Latvians. Ben Brereton on the score sheet yet again. (If this kid was playing regular 1st team football for his club, I would imagine he would be leading the scoring charts in the EFL Championship). 5-0!
With the Under 19’s working hard to qualify out of their group the main squad welcomed Team America (Fuck Yey!). Wembley was not busy nor bouncing but we got off to a flyer with Sterling scoring the first. Reg then score the second for the US to put one in their own net. A scrappy second half saw Team America score and the final result was a 3-1 win.
From one friendly to the next the Under 21’s second fixture of the series was against Romania. A very comfortable performance saw Tammy Abraham win 3-0. This fantastic performance from Tammy saw him score all three begging the question why is he struggling at Swansea.
Back with my competitive head on The under 19’s travelled to Lubeck, Germany. The boys got off to a flyer. Eddie Nketieh scoring after 5 minutes. We then had a clear penalty shout denied after 10 minutes. And then George Tanner then got himself sent off for a reckless challenge. Putting the team under great pressure. We made immediate changes, taking Eddie off and putting Webber on (a defender) to ensure we were still tight at the back. The midfield played out of their skin with Joe Willock and Mason Mount both scoring before half time. Putting the game out of reach for the Germans. A tiring second half saw us tighten up at the back and hold out for the victory. The tactics were spot on but Timmy Tilman did eventual find the back of the net for the spirited Germans, but we were disciplined and saw out the game victors. – Sorry Bast1an your boys just ran out of poof against a well organised 10 man team.
Our last match of the Spring series saw the main squad take on Iran. Like the friendly against Team America we won comfortably 2-0 with Reg scoring again. And the player commonly known as TAA scoring the other.
With the Spring series complete we are getting ever closer to the main event in the summer. The World Cup in Russia. We will also have the Under 19’s European Championships. So a busy summer lies ahead with a great weight of expectation from the average joe on the street believing we should be lift both trophies. I’m not so sure but let’s see how we get on!