England C boss leads his side into International Challenge Trophy Final.
International Challenge Trophy
Tuesday 19 May 2009
Kassam Stadium, Oxford United
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England C manager Paul Fairclough says it has been a difficult route to a second Challenge Trophy Final but he is confident his players have the ability and the passion to lift the Trophy for a second time.
“Obviously the tournament is bigger this time around and all our results have been really, really close,” said Fairclough in the lead-up to England’s Final showdown with Belgium at Kassam Stadium.
The first of the group games was back in November 2007 against Finland, with the third and final one taking place a year later in Italy.
“Finland was a fantastic performance in terms of the pure sense of football, we had to stay strong to get all the points against Wales, and the game in Italy was more about typical English pride and determination. So they were a mixture of games but all different qualities have come out in each of them and it has been quite a testing time to get to the Final.”
In between the group games, England were successful in their defence of the Four Nations Tournament and also had a rewarding tour of the Caribbean.
“Winning the Four Nations was a great achievement because that is almost a marathon event,” said Fairclough. “You get to the end of the tournament and the squad’s on its knees because they’ve played a long season and then they play three games in what amounts to six days. It really was a great victory for us.
“Then going on to the Caribbean and doing the work that we did in the community in Grenada was a real highlight for me. To then get positive results against the Grenada and Barbados national teams - teams who were still involved the World Cup qualification at that stage – was a superb effort.”
Despite covering themselves in glory last year, Fairclough is not prepared to let his team rest on their laurels and all eyes and minds are now firmly focused on the International Challenge Trophy Final.
“I want as many people to know about this game as possible, and we want the crowd to get behind us,” said Fairclough.
“Whichever way you look at it, this team is one of the most successful England teams of the last few years. We get the players to play without a handbrake and to go and express themselves. If people want to watch real national pride, then Oxford is going to be the place to be.”