Lads Lisbon Bound

Assistant academy director Paul Heffer is preparing his youngsters to represent the country in the Nike Global cup which starts on 16th July in Lisbon.

Those who attended the last match of the season will have seen the team - those born on or before 1987 - parade around the ground having earned the right to represent the country by dint of having won the domestic competition.

"It was a pleasant day out for the boys to go to the game at Upton Park; they really enjoyed going round the pitch with the cup," says Paul.

"A few of them felt the nerves with the big crowd there and they deserved it because they did ever so well to win the cup again this year - for the second year running.

"Last year there were only half the amount of teams in it, whereas this year there were 16 teams in it trying to qualify from the English group.

"All the top teams were there and we won it to represent England in the world finals as we did last year.

"We have always said that winning is not a priority, we have got to produce players for the first team, really.

"But when you have got squads that can win games it proves that you have got players within that squad that are good.

"We have had quite a few boys that have had international recognition already and a couple of others have had trials; it is a good group and we would hope that at least three or four would be pushing right the way through.

"It is a chance you take at 14 years of age to predict how far they are going to go but they have got quality at the moment and we do expect good things from them, especially as two or three of them have played up in the U17s already.

"For a club like ours we have to produce players, and the good thing is if we do produce them they do get a chance in the first team whereas other clubs' first teams are maybe blocked by internationals from all over the world, and the English players just don't get a chance.

"We have given them the opportunity in the last few years and it shows that the club will put them in if they are good enough."

As well as playing for club and country, the young lads will also be hoping to progress to honour an absent friend - Korean Tae Sun Lim, who would have been with them but for his father being seriously ill.

He has just has a triple heart bypass and has therefore gone to Korea to be with him.

SQUAD: Chris Wayman, Ryan Andrews, Chris Cohen [who has been in England squads of the past], Mark Noble [England U17], Liam Norval [Welsh international], Jemel Henry [England], Bobby Singh, Tom Cumberworth, Tony Stokes, Sos Yao [Ivory Coast], Ishmael Welsh, Liam White [a trialist, who unfortunately broke a leg last year], Densal Davidson, Hogan Ephraim, Lee Craig, David Cowley.

Amongst the clubs represented are the hosts, Sporting Lisbon, AS Roma, Hertha Berlin, Atletico Madrid, Rapid Vienna, Sao Paolo, Colo Colo [Chile], Deportive Estudiante [Colombia], Monterrey [Mexico], and clubs from Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovenia, China, USA, Africa, SE Asia, and France.

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