England C boss Paul Fairclough ready for Slovaks in Sutton

Thursday 02 Jun 2016
Paul Fairclough

England C face Slovakia in their latest International Challenge Trophy game on Sunday, and manager Paul Fairclough gives us his thoughts on the game.

"England C’s International Challenge Trophy fixture with Slovakia Under 21 at Sutton United FC on Sunday 5 June contains a number of “firsts”. 

It’s the first time we have played Slovakia at home, the first time an England men’s team have competed at home on an Artificial Turf Pitch, the first call-up for six new players to our squad and hopefully, the first time England C have beaten Slovakia.  

England C v Slovakia

International Challenge Trophy
2pm, Sunday 5 May 2016
Gander Green Lane, Sutton United
Free admission for all

The fixture will be played on the excellent surface at Sutton United who indeed, have had a wonderful season culminating in winning the National League South Division Championship.  

One of this year’s Sutton players has strong links with me and also England C.  Nicky Bailey was just 19-years-old when I signed him for Barnet from Sutton United for a very modest fee.  

Nicky went on to play for the England C team and also lift the Conference Trophy with Barnet and his career blossomed, resulting in him playing numerous games in the Championship for Millwall and Middlesbrough before returning to his first love, Sutton United.

Our last encounter against Slovakia was in 2014 when we were narrowly defeated by the odd goal in Poprad in the same competition as this time.  

They were, and still are, a very technical group of players who have a true football philosophy in playing a passing and moving game.  They will have no complaints with the playing surface.

Our last fixture in the competition was against Ukraine, in Kiev, in March.  We came away with a fine 2-0 victory and three very precious points.  

Our next encounter, after the Slovakia fixture, will be against Estonia in Tallin, on 15 November. It would be great to have made it through to the final of the competition before then and we now know that victory on Sunday will see us do just that following the 1-1 between Slovakia and a much-improved Ukrainian side, in Poprad on Wednesday night. 

I travelled out to Slovakia to watch the game so I am fully aware that Sunday’s game will not be easy but feel that we have the ability to more than match what Slovakia throw at us.

Following the victory against Ukraine, I have retained eight players in the squad.  There are no sentiments with the England C set-up; if you are not doing it for your club then you won’t be rewarded with a Three Lions shirt and cap! 

Consequently that means there will be six new Lion cubs accompanied by a former England C player, Dover Athletic’s Sean Raggett. 

With more than 200 England C players having made it into the Football League, this team really works for young, aspiring players.  Jamie Vardy was selected for an England C game but was injured and when fit was ineligible because of his age.  

It is just over two years ago that newly-promoted Burnley’s scoring sensation Andre Gray was knocking in goals on a regular basis for us when he was with Luton Town.

So England C is unique!  Because of transfer windows and end-of-season recruitment by League clubs, these young Lions are plucked from their lair.  

Consequently, in my 12 years managing the team I have never been able to pick the same team twice.  Rather than being frustrated it makes me feel proud that England C has helped give a leg-up to another young player.  And of course it leaves the door open for more hungry young Lions!

England C is also unique for its off pitch team.  Kitman and physio Jimmy Conway, Doctor Steve Feldman, coach Micky Payne and physio Jack Demetriou have been together as a solid unit for twelve years!  We have a young nipper, Jon Cree as our sports scientist, who has been with us for two seasons.  Whereelse in football will you find that kind of sustainability? 

So the scene is set for a great occasion!  Fans and families from all levels of the game, young and old, can have a great day out and witness some of the stars of the future from both England and Slovakia.  Can’t wait!

Admission to the game at Sutton United on Sunday 5 June is free.

By FA Staff