Posted: 10/29/2017


        I have said it before and I will say it again. This u17 team is THE BEST ENGLAND TEAM THAT I HAVE EVER any age group. When I started watching England, the senior men's team was the only one at the time in the early 1950's. Matches were often played at 3.00pm on Wednesday afternoons so you couldn't watch on BBC..the only channel..because of school, and repeats at 10.30pm were past my bedtime.

         Sunday's 5-2 defeat of a good Spanish team at Salt Lake Stadium, 10km outside Kolkata,  was all the more incredible after the Young Lions found themselves two nil down after half an hour. Rhian Brewster reduced the arrears just before half time..his 8th of the tournament and we had a heck of a second half of four more goals without reply

     This group of youngsters have everything.. Skill, Technique, Teamwork, Pace, Charisma, Hard Work, and HEART. Congratulations to Welsh born coach Steve Cooper and his staff for the work that they have done. This year in four age group across five tounaments, 34 matches played with an 88.2% win percentage and their only defeats on penalties. A goal difference  of plus 62. No other nation has ever won three three major tournaments in the same calendar year.

            Brewster won The Golden Boot award while Phil Foden of Manchester City(known as Ronnie to his family),  was awarded Player of the Tournament and scored a brace of goals in the second half. Four months earlier the u20s became World Champions in South Korea with a 1-0 win over Venezuela.  Support from the FA included a backroom staff of 18 to support the lads in any way possible. The squad is multi talented with a multi ethnic background, and three even have posh double-barreled family names.

         They wore their white team jerseys backwards for the awards ceremony, to show their names and numbers and celebrated with non alcoholic champagne back at the hotel. Under their jerseys they wore white vests, as do Premier League players, but usually black, to monitor heart rate and performance data during matches.

          37 year old  Steve Cooper said afterwards "We have a clear long term vision of what we want to achieve as players and staff, which is to be successful at the senior level".

           It was Howard Wilkinson who took Leeds United to the title and was later so important in the vision for the future and one of the men behind St. Georges Park. the £100 million enterprise,   three miles outside Burton on Trent, the brewing capital of England, with no public transport access.  There, with a huge technical staff, the England senior men's and women's squads, plus 22 other squads at various ages, sexes, abilities and disabilities, meet regularly in the Heart of England.

      The model was Clairfontaine, also way out of town in Ile-de-France, opened in late 1970s and the base for the team that won World Cup 1998 on home soil by beating favoured Brazil 3-0 at Stade de France. I joined the celebrations on the Champs-Elysees straight afterwards, and also at the team and the double decker bus parade the next day. I was given a guided tour of Clairfontaine later that year.

         In 2014 FA technical director Dan Ashworth and  Gareth Southgate launched the ENGLAND DNA  PROJECT.  They dropped the u16s out of The Victory Shield, an annual competition for the four home nations, to up the standard of competition. In 2011 for the u20s World Cup,  Premier League managers pulled 35 players from the original list of names. NOT ANY MORE !!  Jadon Sanchez left the u17s squad after the group stages to return to Borussia Dortmund to get a few minutes in Cyprus in a European Cup match two days later.  You may not be aware but the Football Association employs a permanent staff of 800.

      Besides England, the other winner is INDIA, the host nation, even though the Young Indians were eliminated in the group stages, with three defeats and only one goal. With great succes in the stadiums with some huge attendances, and great media attention world wide they have applied to host the FIFA u20 World Cup.  Kolkata in particular is a HOTBED of The Beautiful Game. and home of one of the great football derbies in the world. Since 1925 , almost a century,   Mohun Bagan and East Bengal hve competed in THE KOLKATA DERBY,  361 times, in the Indian I League and other competitions.

       Its called BORO....(BIG in Bengali) . Mohun Bagan  from West Bengal, who play in green and gold, have won 116 to East Bengal's 127, with 118 draws. East Bengal are the red and golds. The record crowd was in the semi-final of the Federation Cup in 1997 at Salt Lake Stadium 131,000 before the stadium was renovated in 2011 and down sized to 68,000 bucket seats in time for the u17 World Cup. It was the largest crowd for any sporting event in India and the world's largest stadium until the 1989 inauguration of the First of May stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea.

          The 2015 FIFA u17 final in Santiago, Chile attracted just 17,000 and the 2011 final in United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi hosted the final with 20,000 but average crowds were only around 6,000. In 2011 Mexico defeated Uruguay 2-0 in Estadio Azteca in front of 99,000 fans.

      I personally think that NO football world championships should EVER be held in UAE.-a racist country. Last week Israeli athlete Tal Flicker had to sing his national anthem after winning a gold medal at a World Judo final. The hosts refused to play the Israeli national anthem Hatikvah or raise the flag in his honour.. AND..don't get me bringing up Qatar and Saudi Arabia !!