The Three Lions sealed their place in the ICT Final, but there was Regions' Cup heartbreak for the SAL.
The England C team have enjoyed a busy year, which has seen them take part in two competitions as well as a number of friendlies whilst England’s representatives in the UEFA Regions’ Cup in 2008 were the Southern Amateur League.
Paul Fairclough’s England C team began the year at Exeter City’s St.James Park where they hosted Wales in the International Challenge Trophy in February.
After an unbeaten 2007, the Three Lions kept their recent good record going too as goals from Mitchell Cole and Michael Morrison were enough to secure a 2-1 victory in front of nearly 2500 spectators in Devon.
There were no more games in the ICT until much later in the year, but May saw England make the short trip to north Wales for the annual Four Nations Tournament, featuring the hosts, Scotland and for the first time, Gibraltar.
It was against Gibraltar that England began the competition and a Cole goal in the first half proved to be the winner in Colwyn Bay.
The scoreline could’ve been much more emphatic too, but the opposition’s goalkeeper, Perez, was almost unbeatable with Fairclough later likening his performance to that of Poland’s Jan Tomaszewski at Wembley in 1973!
England had to work just as hard for their second win of the competition when Stevenage striker Steve Morison netted a second half winner against Scotland a few days later, which meant a victory against Wales in the final game would be enough to secure the title.
Goals from Andy Burgess, Morrison and Shaun Harrad in that match gave England a 3-0 lead in Rhyl which was enough to win the Tournament for a second successive year.
Straight after that game, the squad jetted to the Caribbean for two friendly games against Grenada and Barbados, which also saw charity work undertaken within the local island communities.
First up was Grenada in at The National Stadium in St.George’s, where England were given a thorough test against a competitive team.
The Three Lions had to show their character too, after falling behind in the first half but Morison’s late goal rescued a draw from the game.
It was then on to Bridgetown for another friendly, this time in Barbados’ National Stadium and England followed up their impressive result against Grenada with a win against their hosts. John Shaw and Russell Penn got the goals to complete a 2-0 victory there.
After a summer break, Fairclough’s team were back in action in September with a friendly match against Bosnia and Herzegovina Sarajevo’s Grbavica Stadium.
Against an experienced team, with many of the opposition having played for the Bosnia and Herzegovina A team, England succumbed to a 6-2 defeat, the team’s first reverse since 2004.
However, with the high standard of players in opposition, it was good preparation for their final game of the year in the ITC.
That was a trip to face Italy and England travelled to Benevento in November knowing that a draw would be enough to take them into 2009’s Final against Belgium.
It proved to be a dramatic game too, with Italy taking a first half lead only for debutant Josh Simpson to level things up.
Italy were back in front with 20 minutes left, but England’s character and determination weren’t dented at all as James Constable headed home an 82nd minute equaliser to bring the year to a happy end for England C.
The year also saw a trip to Italy for the Southern Amateur League, who represented England in the UEFA Regions’ Cup.
That took place in October, with England coming up against East of Scotland (Scotland), Region I (Republic of Ireland) and CR Piemonte Valle D’Aosta (Italy).
First up for the SAL were the Irish and it proved to be a hard game against a particularly determined team.
Whilst the game was largely devoid of chances, the English representatives had the upper hand throughout but were eventually held to a 0-0 draw.
There was more joy in the second game as a brace from Alex Ewin and a Nick Stavri strike were enough to see a 3-0 win against East of Scotland and leave the group to be decided in its final games.
However, there was heartbreak for Bob Leeds’ team as a 0-0 draw with the Italians meant that they narrowly missed out on a place in next summer’s Finals, with the Irish progressing courtesy of their 5-1 against the East of Scotland.