Preparations for next week's trip to Helsinki are well underway for Paul Fairclough's team.
Finland v England C
International Challenge Trophy
6pm, Wednesday 14 November 2007
Finnair Stadium, Helsinki
Click here to see the squad.
It was a speculative enquiry by The FA’s Leagues Manager Mike Appleby to the Finnish FA about a year ago that was instrumental in bringing about this exciting International Challenge Trophy fixture against Finland.
Towards the end of last season the Finns were looking for games for their Under-21 squad in preparation for the European Under-21 Championship qualifying fixtures and an invitation to play in Finland was accepted.
Impressed by the quality of our performance, the Finns were happy to enter a team into the expanded tournament. The draw placed the England C team into Group A, together with Wales, Italy and as fate would have it, Finland.
Since the victory on that balmy early summer evening in Valkaekoski, the Finns have gone on an unbeaten four-game run to top their Qualifying Group and look a good bet to qualify for the European Under-21 Finals. They have beaten Denmark, Lithuania, Slovenia and Scotland and will no doubt be looking to extend this winning sequence next week. However our side is also on a four-game winning run and, having not conceded a goal in that time, will be up to the challenge.
Steve McClaren recently took the senior squad to Moscow to face Russia on an artificial surface and Paul Fairclough faces a similar challenge as the game in Finland will be played on a similar surface.
Temperatures at the Finnair Stadium in Helsinki will be sub zero, presenting England with a tough challenge. So all members of the playing and back-room team will be fully committed to ensure that they get their defence of the trophy, which was won with a great deal of style last season, off to a good start.
There are only four players in the squad from the last visit to Finland and new members of the squad such as John Brayford, Matt Day, Liam Brownhill, Louis Soares, Russell Penn, Stuart Lewis, James Constable and Nathaniel Knight-Percival will be keen to grasp the opportunity presented to them.
The squad represents millions of grassroot players throughout the land and they will no doubt return to their clubs richer from their exploits.
A number of England supporters will be making the trip to Finland, with proud parents and friends having already booked their flights. However, it is a group of 16 Barnet supporters who epitomise the support for this team as they leave north London on Tuesday and fly to Estonia. From there they take a long ferry trip to Finland and onto the game.