SUNDAYS NO FUNDAY FOR FAIRCLOUGH
SUNDAY mornings are generally the most relaxing time of the week for a club manager. Whether it consists of precious family time or with their feet up and a copy of The NLP, football matters, for once, take a back burner. But for England C boss Paul Fairclough on an international week, it’s probably just as stressful as life in the dugout! “It’s that feeling of sitting by the phone, holding my breath, and waiting to hear of any injuries that any of the England C squad may have picked up on the Saturday afternoon,” said the Three Lions head coach preparing his troops for the International Challenge Trophy Final against Slovakia on Wednesday. “We have been known to have lost seven or eight players in one single evening before, it’s a real problem. Once I’ve got my squad together I pretty much know my starting eleven, but you can’t really put all your eggs in one basket until you know they are all fit and ready.” Naturally, Fairclough will have been sitting anxiously by the phone again last night with all but two of his 16-man squad for Slovakia in either FA Cup or league action this weekend. Indeed, the England chief has already had to re-think his plans once this week after Woking centre-back Josh Staunton was forced to pull out of the squad through injury, replaced by Bromley’s Jack Holland, who played in the last encounter against Slovakia in June 2016 when the Three Lions were edged out 4-3 in a thriller at Sutton’s Gander Green Lane. Of Fairclough’s squad, only Dagenham & Redbridge pair Fejiri Okenabirhie and Morgan Ferrier can check into the team hotel later today fresh from an inactive week, while Maidenhead’s Sam Barratt, Woking’s Joe Ward and Sutton’s Louis John will join up straight after their FA Cup games this afternoon. Unlike Fairclough’s fledglings – with no fewer than six making their international debuts – Slovakia’s Under 21 set-up have largely played together for many years and are desperate to retain the Trophy they won two years ago. But while Fairclough accepts that consistency does give the hosts an advantage, he also believes his unknown quantities are more than capable of springing a surprise at the Mestsky Stadium. “We’ve done as much research as we possibly can, we know their team and we’ve watched plenty of videos, they’re a good side,” he added. “They are the holders and have played together from 17s through to the 21s so know each other’s game. But, on the flip side, they won’t know anything about us. “The beauty about this squad is that we are never the same twice, just a group of young, hungry and talented players who know what is expected as an elite group. “I like to think we can prepare the players the best we can in the short time we have to give them a chance and if they perform the way I know they can then they certainly have that.”
SQUAD: Jake Gallagher, Cheye Alexander (both Aldershot Town), Daniel Maguire (Blyth Spartans), Grant Smith (Boreham Wood), Josh Rees, Jack Holland (both Bromley), Fejiri Okenabirhie, Morgan Ferrier (both Dagenham), Jack Powell (Ebbsfleet), Ryan Croasdale, Brandon Hall (both Kidderminster), Sam Barratt (Maidenhead), Alex Wynter (Maidstone), Louis John (Sutton), Joe Ward (Woking), David Ferguson (York City).