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When Saturday Comes #14
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 14th Nov 2021 14:06

This week, When Saturday Comes the U’s find themselves on an international break and a weekend off for the WAGs to get in some Christmas shopping. Just as well too, given the U’s have inconsiderately eased past AFC Sudbury to deny them the customary FA Cup Second Round break in December to do likewise. We wait to hear who our opponent will be at the JobServe – it’ll be either top of League One Wigan Athletic or Cameron Coxe’s National League parent club Solihull Moors, who replay at Damson Park on Tuesday evening. Incidentally, Solihull Moors may be part of history being made today, with their match at Meadow Lane already expected to easily top 10,000, and may break the record attendance for that league, which currently stands at 11,083 when Bristol Rovers faced Alfreton Town in 2015.

Tommy Smith, Armando Dobra and Sylvester Jasper are all away at the moment representing their national sides. Smith played in a non-cap behind-closed-doors game against an Algerian A side, a warm-up match in preparation for their full international friendly against Zambia next week. The All Whites recorded an impressive 2-1 victory over one of the top ranked sides in Africa, albeit this was their ‘A’ side, and Smith certainly started and I think also finished the game.

Armando’s Albania U21 side were less fortunate against Slovenia U21s in the UEFA U21 Championship, losing 3-0 to reverse their 2-0 victory last month (with Armando scoring the second). Armando started, but was subbed with ten minutes to go, Albania already 3-0 down at the time. They play again on Tuesday night, away at Kosovo U21, a game they must win to keep in touch with the top two sides in Group 7, Czech Republic and England.

Meanwhile in Holland, Sylvester made his international debut for Bulgaria, starting the game against Netherlands U21s. Bulgaria took a surprising early lead against a strong Dutch side, but by early in the second half were 2-1 down. Jasper was subbed with just over 20 minutes to go, but to no avail as the Netherlands scored and injury-time penalty to make it 3-1. Bulgaria’s next match isn’t until 24th of March, the return fixture against Netherlands, so I’d imagine Sylvester will be heading back to Blighty soon.

As Boris continues to refuse to deal with the sleaze scandal surrounding the Tories, or even apologise for his handling of it, a Daily Mail (of all people) poll puts the Labour party 6 points ahead. Still, I firmly expect Kier Starmer to ineffectually fritter that away in due course, so I’m not buying red rosettes yet.

Negotiators at the COP26 climate talks are hopeful an agreement can be reached today to keep the Paris Accord alive and commit over 200 nations (thankfully now including America again) to significant measures to avert the worst impacts of global warming climate change. Okay, so the irony that most of these flew in on private jets for the event is not lost on most people, but humanity must start to realise that we exist in a fragile ecosystem that will have no hesitation in cleansing us from the surface if we continue to f’ck it up.

Over the pond, former mentalist Britney Spiers has finally been released from a 13 year conservatorship controlling both her finances and her personal affairs that was imposed by her father. I was surprised to learn these are not uncommon arrangements in the US apparently, though human rights activists are fighting hard to try and make them as extinct as we will be if we don’t sort out climate change.

In lighter news, alleged mail fraud and money launderer Steve Bannon finds himself back in hot water, after a federal grand jury indicted Bannon for contempt of Congress. He is charged with one count related to his refusal to appear for a deposition and another related to his refusal to produce documents and could face up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Unfortunately for Bannon, he doesn’t have Trump on hand to escape prosecution with a presidential pardon this time – couldn’t happen to a more deserving individual.

[b]Closer to home[/b]
Of course the big news for Colchester United this week focused on the EFL Trophy. After a spirited, gutsy, determined performance at Portman Road on Tuesday, to earn a much-deserved point, our country cousins took the bonus point courtesy of the penalty shoot-out. It was gutting to go out in that manner, particularly for young Chay Cooper who was so unlucky as his final spot-kick glanced off the inside of Hladký’s right post, careened spinning along the goal line and narrowly missed going in off the far post.

[b]© Rex Features[/b]

As disappointed as we all were, we needn’t have been, as we learned the following morning that it had already been determined that the West Ham U21 side would be docked 3 points for fielding an ineligible player in their game at Gillingham last month – a game they won 2-0. West Ham’s England Youth defender Ajibola Alese had already been booked in the previous two ties, and should have been suspended, but whoever’s job it was to make sure these things didn’t happen didn’t do their job, and is presumably now dusting down their CV. Gillingham were awarded the £10k win bonus, West Ham deducted 3 points, and the U’s finished in the second qualification slot with 4 points.

The draw for Round 2 of the EFL Trophy is at 2pm this afternoon (on Sky I think?), we will be away at either Exeter City, Swindon Town, Leyton Orient or Cambridge United – yes, Special Duties’ [i]Wembley Wembley[/i] is already echoing around in my head.

[b]Match of the Day
[i]England v Poland
26th March 1999
UEFA U21 Championship (Qualifiers)
Attendance 15,202 (The Dell)[/i][/b]

It seemed fitting, with the U’s on an international break, that [i]Match of the Day[/i] for WSC14 would do likewise, featuring England’s U21 qualifier against Poland way back in 1999. I must confess I’m very much an armchair supporter where England is concerned – I’ll always watch the matches, and always support England, but generally don’t have the same urge as others to follow England in person. In fact, I’ve only been to three internationals that I can recall, England’s 1978 4-1 victory over Hungary in a Wembley friendly, this match at the Dell, and another U21 game against Republic of Ireland at St Mary’s in 2008.

The backstory to the Poland game begins with a good friend, former colleague and avid Southampton supporter, someone who has accompanied me to more than a few U’s games, not least whenever we face Pompey at Fratton Park. Getting wind early that the Friday night match was coming to the Dell, he started gathering interest from myself and other football following colleagues. I could go one better (two actually) because my brother-in-law and son had already arranged to travel down to me in Salisbury that afternoon in readiness for the U’s game at Bournemouth on Saturday. In the end there was a dozen of us jammed into a packed-out Dell, my first and as it would turn out only visit to the grand old stadium before she was replaced with St Mary’s. I still have two of our three ticket stubs from the match - £10 for an adult was a snip btw.

Peter Taylor’s England line-up that evening was a veritable who’s who of England stars in the making:
1….Richard Wright
2….Danny Mills
3….Michael Ball
4….Wes Brown
5....James Beattie
6….Seth Johnson
7….Frank Lampard (captain) (14 Hayden Mullins 79’)
8….Jamie Carragher
9….Lee Bowyer
10..Matt Jansen (17 Jason Euell 62’)
11..Lee Hendrie (12 John Curtis 73’)

Yep, you read that right – until I started researching this match I had never realised that I’d seen Hayden Mullins on a pitch instead of just on the side lines. In fact, this wasn’t just any old international appearance for Hayden Mullins, it was his England debut – I have to be honest though, there’s nothing much I actually remember about it. At the time with Crystal Palace, Hayden would go on to make two more appearances for England U21, against Hungary the following month and Bulgaria in June of the same year.

As for the match, given the final score this was a surprisingly tight closely-fought affair for most of the first half. England were comfortably in control, roared on by a proper old skool Friday night football atmosphere, but Poland were resilient, organised, and managed to cope with most of what England had to offer. That was until with less than five minutes of the half to go, Jansen expertly hooked over his shoulder to send Bowyer racing down the right wing. Bowyer still had a lot to do, but twisting and turning his defender inside out, cut inside to drill across the face of Bledzewski’s goal and into the far corner. It was no more than England deserved, but it had taken a long time to arrive.

Into the second half, and despite their setback, the resolve of the Poles was admirable, and still they kept England at bay. Admittedly they weren’t really testing Richard Wright at the other end, but at 1-0 they were always in the game. That resolve was finally broken after 15 minutes with a penalty awarded right in front of us. Hendrie sent Johnson down the left wing, who’s pinpoint cross was right on to the toes of Saints sweetheart James Beattie. Bringing it under control, Beattie looked to be ready to squeeze the trigger when he appeared to have his standing leg knocked from under him. Up stepped Frank Lampard to make no mistake from the spot to give England a much more comfortable two-goal cushion.

And that was that really, the Polish spirit was broken and the floodgates opened. Five minutes later Lampard got his second with an absolute screamer, latching on to a mis-controlled ball that kind of bounced off Beattie to send a left-foot rocket into the top corner of the net. With the game now more or less safe, Taylor immediately subbed Jansen for Jason Euell, and less than ten minutes later it kind of paid off. Another cross into the box from (I think) Bowyer should have been flicked in by Euell, but he got his feet all wrong and it unexpectedly came through to Hendrie on the edge of the six-yard box. Showing composure beyond his years, he sat the ‘keeper on his arse, rounded Euell’s marker like he wasn’t there and tapped into an empty goal.

His reward was a rest from any further action, being immediately subbed for John Curtis, and less than ten minutes later just after Hayden Mullins replaced Frank Lampard, it was 5-0. The Polish defence was in complete disarray now, with England carving them open at will, and it was another pinpoint cross that finished the rout. A delightful angled cross from Michael Ball was headed back across the box by Euell, Beattie missed his chance to connect when taken out by a Polish defender, but Lee Bowyer made no mistake coming in behind. In truth, if Bowyer had missed I suspect it would have been a penalty for the foul on Beattie.

And that was that, what started as a real struggle finished as a complete rout for England.

[b]England 5 (Bowyer 41’, 81’; Lampard 55’, 60’; Hendrie 72’) Poland 0[/b]

That result put clear space between England and second place Poland in the qualifying group, and England would go on to win the group. Qualification for the actual 2000 tournament was hideously complicated. The nine group winners were joined by the seven best runners-up (this included Poland), with all 16 drawn in a two-legged mini knock-out draw to decide the final eight qualifiers.

England comfortably despatched FR Yugoslavia (aka Serbia these days) 3-0 in the first leg, but from I can discern did not play the second leg and thus qualified by default. I cannot find the reason for this anywhere, but I’d imagine political unrest had something to do with it. Poland were less fortunate, drawing 2-2 on aggregate against Turkey and going out on the away goals rule.

Despite the promise of the qualifications, the finals were a bit of a damp squib for England, and although they smashed Turkey 6-0 (the record for the finals), defeats to eventual winners Italy and Slovakia meant they came home without getting out of the finals group stage.

And as for the U’s, well they sadly couldn’t finish what would have been a perfect football weekend for me, my brother-in-law and nephew, and despite David Greene giving us a 20th minute lead at Dean Court, two first half replies by Warren and Hughes saw a 2-1 victory for AFC Bournemouth. We had, nevertheless, had a fantastic weekend all things considered.

There’s still a grainy YouTube video of England v Poland (with Polish commentary) available, which is definitely worth a watch. Check out particularly 4’54” when you get a fleeting glimpse of Hayden Mullins on his England debut, running across camera to congratulate Bowyer.

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