The Worthing College Football Performance Programme saw 7 players across both the Men and Women’s Programme in the last 32 players of their respective England Colleges’ and England Schools selection process.
During December and January these players were trialled and tested to their maximum across all parts of the country to see who would make the final squads for the upcoming season.
The Women’s Programme saw Charlotte Owen and Izzy Burt travel to Coventry for England Colleges’ final squad selection. After the trial games against the North BOTH were selected to represent England this season.
Meanwhile Central Defender Greg Gander and Goalkeeper Jimmy Punter travelled to Filton, Bristol for the Men’s England Colleges’ final trial. Both players performed admirably, with Gander outstanding according to selection feedback. Gander was selected, but unfortunately Punter missed out.
Over the second weekend in January; Harry Smith, Jack Barnes & Josh Marshall, along with Matt Morrish (from St Bedes School) travelled to Lilleshall for the final 32 selection residential for the England Schools Squad at Lilleshall. Smith and Barnes were in the Red squad, who drew 1-1 with the RAF. Marshall was in the White squad, who defeated a Keele University side 4-0. The second day of the residential saw each squad play each other to allow manager Andy Buckingham to make his final decisions. Unfortunately for the boys involved the Northern players seemed to be that little bit stronger, which showed in the final 15-3 split in terms of north/south selection, which meant that all the Worthing players missed out.
Buckingham was quoted after selecting his squad for this seasons Centenary Shield; “As manager of [a national] team, its always the worst part of the role when you know that you are choosing one boy over another in certain positions. For those who didn’t make it, I’m sorry I could not include you, you are excellent footballers and one or two of you may actually come back into the process. But I hope you have enjoyed the experience and you still have a lot of football ahead of you. Enjoy that and I wish you every success in the future.”
Men’s Performance Programme Coach Dave Hall was still full of praise for all involved and also highlighted this as a progression route that Worthing College players are now forging for themselves; “At the College we are extremely delighted and proud that 7 of our players got to the final 32 in the whole country for their age group for both Men & Women’s football. This shows that players are now developing in an effective environment, not only to compete at National level, but to also go on to representing their country, which is a fantastic achievement. The feedback we got from the coaching staff about all the players was positive, even those who didn’t make the final cut, which is testament to their attitudes and ability. I was naturally gutted for Jimmy, Jack, Harry and Josh, however upon reflection to have so many players from one college get to the final 32 players in the whole country speaks volumes about what the College programme is trying to achieve, which is to develop players, so that they can realise their full potential. It was great to see that these players were given the opportunity on the back of the Fergany brothers (James & Ryan) and Izzy, who represented England last season. Hopefully all the players would have benefitted from this experience and will make them better players in the future.”
Monday saw both Men & Women’s England Colleges’ teams take on Australia Schools at Sutton Coldfield Town FC. Charlotte Owen played 75 minutes and Izzy Burt came on for the last 10 minutes. Unfortunately England were edged out in the final minutes, losing out 2-1.
Unfortunately Greg Gander had to watch is first game from the sidelines as the Worthing College central defender has a hairline fracture to his metatarsal, however he travelled with the squad and saw England win 3-2.
Hall commented on the first games of the season “It was great to hear both Charlotte and Izzy getting their caps for their country. A real shame about the result, however I’m sure the squad will come back stronger when they take on a Bristol Academy side on January 29th. To be honest I was gutted for Greg. It seems like it was an old injury that has resurfaced, so he may have trialled for England with a broken foot! Greg has been nothing short of outstanding for us this season and it was duly noted his decision to travel with the squad and hopefully Greg will be fit for the Wales game on February 12th.”