Please welcome back Andrew Chapman to cm9798.co.uk. You may remember Andrew from the Gateshead series last year and he’s back with a look at England’s Golden Generation. How you ask? I’ll leave that to Andrew to explain…
Hello and welcome to “The Golden Generation” where we will follow England’s much feted players from World Cup 2002, but as wee bairns in 1997/8 attempting to qualify for and win the World Cup. Fast forward (rewind, whatever) to 2002, cast your mind back.
Sven had been in his post for 1 ½ years and had moulded together a squad of youngsters mixed with some experience to qualify top of a group including arch-rivals Germany thanks to that famous 5-1 thumping in Munich.
In the end, it all fell apart for Sven against a superior Brazilian side contain many legendary players (such as Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Denilson, Kaka…and Kleberson…) through an accidental chip come cross (come on man, there’s no way Ronald McDonaldinho meant it!) and an ancient and decrepit goal-keeper.
But what if Alan was wrong? What if you can win things with kids? Let’s meet the squad;
Okay so we’ve cheated a bit, this isn’t the exact 2002 squad, we’ve drafted in some “fresher” players like Gerrard who didn’t make that squad, Carragher, Terry and Crouch. Danny Mills, Wayne Bridge, Trevor Sinclair, Martin Keown, Teddy Sheringham and Gareth Southgate will have to make do with being first reserves. A blend of 2002 / 06.
Here is the pick of the bunch (CM has forced the DOB to be different otherwise he’d be 15), I think the game has been fairly accurate, don’t you think…
Okay, so the FA have set me up with a nice little warm-up before we look to take on Moldova and Italy in our attempts to ensure our place in the finals.
First Stop: The Makario, Nicosia
A lads holiday, just what we need to get a bit of bonding on the go. Hopefully we make it there and back incident free.
Some clear signs that we will struggle, facing the might of Nicky Papavasiliou, and Owen scoring once out of 11 shots in typical England fashion, we scrape a 2-2 draw against the minnows.
We’ve got some tinkering to do before we line up for qualifying. We should have Fowler back which should help beef up the fire power.
Next Stop: Wembley, London
The lads are nervous, they know we need a good win to keep the pressure on the Italians. The press are on our backs after the poor result in Cyprus, with question marks hanging over whether these 16 year olds have what it takes.
GET INNNN!!!!! Some adjustments at half-time (Hargreaves on for Neville; Scholes on for Fowler) and we manage to complete a more competent result. I would have liked more, but it’s a good result for a team whose average age is less than 22.
Meanwhile, Italy’s draw away in Georgia means a draw for us in Rome will see us to the finals in France. Almost spooky…
My first post-match task is to get Eileen to pray to the gods that nobody gets a serious injury in the build-up to the big game in Rome. We could also do with a few players getting game time at their clubs to pick up some form, particularly Crouch who is behind Ferdinand, Klinsmann, and a few other strikers.
A week passes, and Eileen has already failed, as a rather spicy Man Utd training session see’s our midfield engine Nicky Butt out for 6 weeks with a broken cheekbone. Carragher or Hargreaves will have to deputise if they stay fit in the next few weeks.
Another one bites the dust…
Next Stop: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
The away fans are in fine voice at the Stadio Olimpico. John Gorman has handed me the Italian line-up selected by Cesare Maldini…gulp…I hand my initial tactical thoughts to John;
So, here’s how the bairns line-up:
Straight from Kick-off Del-Piero gives us it all to work for, getting in behind the back two and slotting past an ageing Seaman.
However, 20 minutes later, a young Michael Owen breezes through the Italian defence and smashes home the equaliser. And just 3 minutes on, Frank Lampard sends a trademark howitzer into the top corner beyond a despairing Peruzzi. Despite not having much of the ball, and defending heroically already, we are ahead!
We get in at half time 2-1 up in Rome, totally unexpected and undeserved on the face of play. Sack it, if we sit back, Italy have the players to tear us apart so I tell the lads to go for it!
It’s a cagey start to the second half, and Maldini moves to a more defence system for some reason despite having the clearer chances (most of them fluffed by Zola). 52 minutes and his plan backfires; Owen slots Scholes in behind the defence and it’s 3-1. The travelling fans go wild!
Maldini makes a double sub and throws caution to the wind, but to no avail. The game peters out and that is it…the final whistle goes!!! WE’VE DONE IT!!! The dressing room is a wash with celebratory orange squash!
“Italy 1, England 3 and we’re there in France nineteen-ninety-eight!”
Now THAT is something to behold;
So that’s it, we’ve qualified, completely beyond my expectations (especially following the warm-up with Cyprus!). Next time out we’ll canter through our preparations for the tournament, see how our wee bairns get on at club level, and see who makes the cut for our World Cup squad.
C’est tout pour le moment…See you next time!