Ronnie Henry is hoping to lead out his country again this week, this time on home soil at St.James' Park.
England v Wales
International Challenge Trophy, Group A
7.45pm, Wednesday 20 February 2008
St James Park, Exeter City FC
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St James’ Park in Exeter plays host to international football on Wednesday evening, when England C take on the Welsh Under-23 team in what is the second game of the International Challenge Trophy.
An impressive win picked up in Finland last November got the Three Lions off to a decent start in the competition and they now know that if they can collect another victory against the Welsh then it could set them up for a potential competition winning match with the leaders from Group B.
However, for England defender Ronnie Henry, thoughts are focused firmly on the game on Wednesday and picking up the right result.
After playing on an artificial surface in Finland, the players are looking forward to a return to home soil and the home of Exeter City and a Conference National venue.
“It’s not quite as far for us all and the travelling is not as bad for the lads,” said the Stevenage Borough man.
“And we’ll be playing on a pitch rather than the astroturf that we had to play on in Finland, so hopefully the ball will run more freely and we’ll be able to play our normal game.
“Exeter is a lovely ground, so we’re looking forward to it now.”
With the previous result still relatively fresh in the mind, the spirit within Paul Fairclough’s squad is high and Henry believes that the bonding sessions in which the team participates whilst they are away all helps towards that.
“We had a really good trip to Finland and got an excellent result out there,” added Henry.
“It wasn’t the greatest of conditions for us, as it was freezing and the game was played on astroturf, but we got the result and we’re looking forward to coming back to England and getting on a pitch again and hopefully getting a win.
“There is a great team spirit and when we went to Finland, we did a number of activities together and really bonded.
“A lot of the lads know each other anyway, but even the new lads were made to feel welcome and settled in straight away.”
Wednesday’s game is one that will see the England players come up against a few more familiar faces and the Lions are certainly expecting a tough encounter with Tony Pennock’s team.
A number of the Welsh squad ply their trade in the Conference National, so Henry knows that the standard will be decent and a different test to the one faced in Helsinki.
The league’s top scorer Stuart Fleetwood, who plays for Forest Green Rovers, is likely to be lining up for Wales and after facing him for Stevenage just last weekend, Henry knows what he’s up against.
“He’s obviously on top of his game at the minute, so we’ll have to stop him,” he admitted.
“He’s scored a lot of goals in the Conference and attracted the attention of a lot of clubs this season, but if we’re playing well and everyone is working together we should be able to stop him.
“We certainly expect it to be a little bit tougher than the Finland game, but if we approach it in the right way and play as well as we know we can, then there’s no reason why we can’t win the match.”
Henry is also hoping to retain the captain’s armband for the game, after being given the honour of leading the team out last time around.
The 24-year-old, who became the first captain to lift a trophy at the new Wembley last year when he was part of Stevenage’s FA Trophy winning team, isn’t sure yet whether or not he will be given the honour.
Fairclough will be making his decision ahead of the game, but the former Tottenham Hotspur junior is hopeful that he will be bestowed with the honour in front of a home crowd.
“It was a great honour for me to be the captain of England and to lead them out against Finland,” added Henry.
“I never expected that, but I was very pleased to be asked to do it and I was just glad we got the win.
“I’m not taking anything for granted though and if I get the opportunity again to be captain against Wales, I’ll be grateful.
“We don’t normally find out until we meet up though so I’ll have to wait and see.”England C Squad
Lance Cronin (Ebbsfleet United), Adam Bartlett (Blyth Spartans), Daniel Gleeson (Cambridge United), John Brayford (Burton Albion), Michael Morrison (Cambridge United), Ronnie Henry (Stevenage Borough), Liam Brownhill (Witton Albion), Ricky Holmes (Chelmsford City), Ben Harding (Aldershot Town), Dean Moxey (Exeter City), Russell Penn (Kidderminster Harriers), Lewis Chalmers (Aldershot Town), Mitchell Cole (Stevenage Borough), Scott Rendell (Cambridge United), Shaun Harrad (Burton Albion), Jeff Goulding** (Fisher Athletic)
* Chris Hall replaces Matt Tubbs
** Replaces Chris Hall