Young Lions- SportChain Cup 2019.

It’s no secret that English football is almost as successful as it has ever been. With the infamous 1966 World Cup win seeming almost a lifetime ago, the last two years have shown lots of promise, recognition and trophies across nearly all of the age groups for the Football Association.

Most notably, winners of the FIFA Under 20 World Cup, the UEFA under 19 Championship and of course the FIFA under 17 World Cup… phew.

And respectably, runners up in the UEFA Under 17 Championships and semi-finalists of the UEFA under 21 Championship.

Having been a part of the unforgettable summer 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia myself, I witnessed first hand the resurgence of passion and belief in the national team as they attempted wholeheartedly to win over the nation by bringing home the trophy, only falling short in the semi finals to the eventual runners up, Croatia, and the mightily impressive Luka Modric.

With a host of English names making an appearance in the headlines recently such as the £100 million rated Jadon Sancho, underplayed Callum Hudson- Odoi and Manc born and bred Marcus Rashford to name but a few, it seemed only fitting to go and watch the England Under 18 team participate in the first edition of the SportChain Cup here in Dubai. The competition including 6 teams, Mexico, Japan, Belgium, England, Czech Republic and Russia.

With a KO time of 8pm at the recently dismantled grandstand pitch based at the Sevens ground, it was an opportunity to see what all the fuss was about and whether this new ‘DNA’ had any substance.

A team which has already won the Murcia and Limoges tournaments earlier this season.

There was a crowd of around 100 people, it was time to see if the English lads could do it on a windy and rainy Friday night in Dubai, never mind Stoke. It appeared that Neil Dewsnip had rested some of his key players after the 4-1 win over Japan and in anticipation of the Mexico game taking place 3 days later.

James Garner who had recently signed a new full time contract with Manchester United after making his champions league debut in the dramatic win over PSG, was a notable absentee from the starting line up.

England lacked real creativity in the final third but it gave the opportunity for the defenders to shine, making crucial tackles to preserve a 0-0 score line going into half time. England had hit the bar on two occasions and despite bringing in some reinforcements in the second half, they went down to 10 men and conceded a 78th minute goal which meant the team suffered their first loss in the tournament.

However, for some of the players, it does bode well for the European Championships 2020 and the newly reformed 48 team Winter FIFA World Cup set to take place (at the moment) in Qatar.

Ones to watch…

James Garner ( Manchester United)

Now that Ole is permanently at the wheel and a firm believer in the youth production from the academy, I am sure James will feature in the pre season tour of Australia and ICC cup in Singapore. Depending on injuries, we may also see James get some minutes in the remaining league games.

Curtis Jones ( Liverpool )

A midfielder who has already made his full debut in the FA cup against Wolves this season. A player who will be hoping to make an impression again within pre season and hopefully securing some more minutes in the 2019/20 season.

As a side note, ‘Into the Blue’ is a fantastic documentary on Manchester City’s 2017/18 youth campaign in the UEFA Champions League, featuring the likes of Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz now of Real Madrid.