After winning the Four Nations Tournament in Wales at the end of May, England Na
After winning the Four Nations Tournament in Wales at the end of May, England National Game XI Manager Paul Fairclough is now preparing for his first game on home soil, since his appointment in January of this year...
His first match in charge saw England travel to Ostend in February, when with a depleted side, England put in a performance that Fairclough later described as 'heroic'.
Despite going down to ten men on the stroke of half-time, England made the hottest young talent in the Belgian Jupiler Premier League fight all the way in a 3-1 defeat.
In two weeks time the two sides will meet again at Darlington's superb new all-seater Reynolds Arena, with Fairclough targeting a victory to build on last season's encouraging performances.
The sixteen man squad features twelve new names - as The FA have agreed to play an Under-23 side - with a forward line noticeable for its pace, and which has already bagged 28 Conference league goals this season.
Aldershot's Roscoe D'Sane scored England's goal in February's defeat in Ostend, and also hit the target in all three of England's Four Nations Tournament fixtures. This season he has continued his form which helped Aldershot back into the Nationwide Conference, and has already hit seven league goals.
D'Sane could be partnered by his club teammate Aaron McLean, who after being released by Leyton Orient has earned rave reviews during the 'Shots' impressive early-season form, netting five Conference goals, whilst their midfield teammate Jon Challinor has also been called into the squad for the first time.
Also included in the squad is Shrewbury's much-coveted striker Luke Rodgers. Despite relegation from the Third Division last season, Rodgers earned rave reviews for his strong front running during Shrewsbury's FA Cup run.
Already this season Rodgers has scored eight Conference goals, and in recent weeks has been doing the running for his Manager and 44-year old striker partner - former Northern Ireland international - Jimmy Quinn.
Completing the striking quartet is Stevenage Borough's Anthony Elding. Elding again has already notched eight league goals to date, and competition will be fierce for the starting strike berths when the squad meet in the North East next weekend.
Hereford United's Matt Baker and former Manchester United trainee Michael Rose have been rewarded for their fine form in retaining their places in the England set-up, with Woking's Jon Boardman and Chester City's Danny Collins also keeping their places in the squad.
One of the most exciting new players to be called up is Barnet's 18-year old, Ismail Yakubu. Manager Paul Fairlclough said:
"Ismail has a real opportunity to develop over the coming years, and for a young lad, is very level-headed, dependable and efficient out on the pitch. Danny Maddix and Calvin Plummer have been playing exceptionally well in the Barnet back-line which has meant that Ismail has started in a number of positions this season, but Martin Allen (Barnet Manager) has told me that his performances are so consistent that he has become one of the first-team regulars."
Yakubu is joined by former Arsenal trainee Greg Oates, who at only 21 is now plying his trade for Margate, and Morecambe's David Perkins, a left sided defender or midfielder that Fairclough describes as very much in the 'Nigel Winterburn mould'. There are also first call-ups for Exeter City goalkeeper James Bittner, Telford United's Sam Ricketts and Chris Piper from Dagenham & Redbridge.
A constant in Paul Fairclough's recent England squads has been the selection of players he describes as 'multifunctional', and in Piper and Ricketts, he believes he has players who could perform a number of roles against Belgium.
"Sam has emerged this season as a real utility player and has the perfect frame for a footballer, has two good feet and can play in a number of positions, whilst Chris has played a lot of Conference football for such a young age.
"Chris was schooled at the Charlton Athletic Academy where my Assistant Steve Avory came into contact with him, got some invaluable experience when he played at Highbury for Farnborough in The FA Cup, and since his move to Dagenham, he has blossomed under Gary Hill", said Paul.
Looking ahead to kick-off on the 4th November, Fairlcough concluded:
"On paper, Belgium have players at Anderlecht, Brugge, Standard Liege, PSV Eindhoven and Tottenham Hotspur who should be too strong for our team.
"In February though our players dominated a lot of the possession and came off the pitch with a ringing endorsement from the Belgian coaches who complimented the quality of players outside the Football League in England.
"This time, with some of the most exciting talent in the Conference, at a wonderful stadium and in front of the passionate supporters of the North-East, we will be going all out for a win, and hope to show people just what a showcase the National Game XI is for the talent we have in our game."
Phil Smith (Margate), James Bittner (Exeter City), Greg Oates (Margate), Ismail Yakubu (Barnet), Jon Boardman (Woking) Danny Collins (Chester City), Chris Murphy (Telford United), Gary Thompson (Morecambe), Sam Ricketts (Telford United), Jon Challinor (Aldershot Town), Chris Piper (Dagenham & Redbridge), Anthony Elding (Stevenage Borough), Luke Rodgers (Shrewsbury Town), Roscoe D'Sane (Aldershot Town), Aaron McLean (Aldershot Town), David Perkins (Morecambe)
Admission to this fixture is free, with kick-off at 7.45pm.
Reynolds Arena to host National Game XI