The victory what? The Victory Shield; a U16 tournament between the home nations to try out some young kids on a bigger stage. It is most certainly the place to go if you want to see the eventual future of the England national team and some quality league prospects.
Obviously I can’t write too much about the match as I spent most of the time researching who the hell everyone was and trying to keep track of the endless stream of substitutions. I did enjoy the game though. I enjoyed it more than at least one of England’s qualifiers.
Rather than attempting to analyse the totally fragmented and spontaneous game, I’ll just mention some of England’s standout performers. Beginning with:
Connor Ogilvie – 15 – Tottenham Hotspurs: Ogilvie kept good consistency throughout the game, and although his slip caused NI’s equaliser just before halftime, he kept his head up and looked pro-active and solid. Like a few members of the team, he looked more developed physically in his game.
Oluwaseyi Ojo – 14 – MK Dons: Seyi came on as a sub midway through the second half, and Don’s coach Karl Robinson (who was in the stands) will be delighted with what he saw. Creating England’s third goal with forward-thinking trickery, he looked constantly threatening with great dribbling qualities.
Dan Crowley – 14 – Aston Villa: Crowley came on later in the second half than Ojo but created just as much an impact, minus the goal. Coming through the center, he looked very confident and tested the Irish goalie a few times. Could certainly do with a growth spurt though. Not something you could say about the next lad…
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 15 – Chelsea: Head and shoulders above everybody physically and nearly literally, the captain put in a great performance. Playing with intelligence he was unlucky not to get on the score-sheet and certainly led by example.
Conor Hunte – 15 – Chelsea: Loftus-Cheek’s youth-team-mate regularly looked threatening and latched onto Bennett’s through-ball for England’s first goal, showing good footwork. He then swapped roles with Bennett to provide him with an easy finish for the second.
Mason Bennett – 15 – Derby County: Bennett stole the show from a very good team, looking the complete under-16 striker package. He had pace and good finishing, but more importantly, he had positional intelligence – the key to becoming a good goal scorer. I don’t want to laud the kid too much but he really looked like he could have a half in a cup game for a team like Man United.
Honorable Mentions: Ashley Smith-Brown: flying fallback, Josh Aina: tricky fallback, and Conor Mitchell: Northern Ireland’s competent goalkeeper.
All in all a good performance from England with plenty of promise. I would suggest anyone with access to Sky Sports checks out the England Schoolboy’s next fixture on the 27th against Wales.
Before you get Football Manager out, I’d recommend popping in to the bookies as England have won the last ten Victory Shields, and have racked up an enormous 34 outright wins since WWII, with 12 shared victories on top. The future is still very young, but very promising.