Despite fielding essentially an under 15 squad in U-17 tourney,Cardinal Heenan College alma mater of Steven Gerrard manage to hold their own.
For the second game in a row,the Cardinal Heenan College team seemed outmatched in the Subroto Cup campaign. While European teams are expected to be physically superior to their opponents,the UK school side were of the same if not smaller size than their opponents from Daman and Diu. The difference in sizes had made a big difference in their opening encounter against Tamil Nadu which they had lost 3-0. This time around the team from Liverpool made up the size deficit through sheer skill as they reversed the outcome,winning the encounter 3-0 this time.
While most teams are fielding players who are pushing the upper limits of the permissible 17 years,thirteen of the 15-player Liverpool squad are under fifteen years of age. There is however no denying their schools pedigree. Their alumni list boasts of illustrious names like England skipper Steven Gerrard,Portsmouth striker David Nugent and Blackburn Rovers defender Bradley Orr. The current squad are no slackers either having won the U-14 category in the ESFA (English Schools Football Association) Cup – the highest school level football competition in the UK – for the past two years. Indeed their U-17 squad isnt playing in India because the Subroto coincides with this years English School Cup.
And so while their seniors would probably blast past their opponents,the current squad clad in black striped red jerseys,dodged and weaved,dribbling effortlessly past flatfooted defenders. Their sharpest player is also their youngest 14-year-old midfielder Luke Griffins who is already a regular in the Bolton Wanderers youth squad. Coach Paul Sewill insists his side still has scope to improve. The first game was hard for us because it was a combination of several things. Coming from the North of England,we were not used to the heat and our opponents were much older than us. Now that we have been here for some time,it got easier for us, says Sewill.
Although they are young,Sewill says there is plenty of pressure on his young teams shoulders. While they obviously expect to live up to their schools reputation,many,often from relatively deprived backgrounds expect to break into professional football in the years ahead. And while there was once a time when most teenagers would hope to be picked for Liverpool,that is less the case now. Since we are Liverpool based,there is a lot of attachment to the club. But now since the club is rich they can afford to scout for players from around the country. So our players too tend to move around, says Sewill.
For the moment though the squad are very much regular schoolboys. We have a strong football heritage but at the same time we dont claim to be a football academy. We are a regular school and have regular classes as well. Football is just one of the things that we do. In fact our principal has specially given permission for the boys to get a couple of weeks off to play in the tournament. They are supposed to be studying as well but I doubt they will be looking at their books right now, says Sewill.
Indeed Sewill wants his team to think beyond football during their time in India. They are in a completely new country and it will be a great time for them to immerse themselves into the culture. For many of them it will be a trip of a lifetime, he says.