South Lancashire lose to last minute Robben goal after glorious fightback!

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As a stranger in a strange land it is inspiring to look back at my own country – God’s own country – Lancashire. Over many years the connections between this chunk of former industrial heartland and the national football team have been extensive and entertaining. The match against Holland took this to a new level. Of the eleven players who started the game, nine are currently plying their trade in this area and another – Cahill – has recently left to join a team of southern softies. The substitutes who got a game – Sturridge, Milner, Downing, Campbell and Jones – all have strong connections with, or play in the county, leaving only Walcott and Parker as playing representatives with a Southern situation.

But that’s not all. Assistant coach for the night, Steve Wigley, is a Manchester lad, and a former coach at City, and when you add Pearce, a former Manchester City player and manager, you can see how extensive the links between last night’s team and the north west of England are.

Even more noticeable – the Manchester City links – with 5 players and one former player on the field during the evening. So – how did they all get on? And why is it that this corner of England should be so prolific in providing players, and so passionate about the game?

A brief glance at the history of soccer reveals an incredible record of northwest success – Blackpool, Bolton, Burnley and Preston in the old days, and, since the advent of regular televised soccer, 8 European Cups and a few Cup Winners’ Cups. Teams like Liverpool, Everton, and the two Manchester clubs have provided flair, excitement, chutzpah and soccer of the highest order. Competition has bred more and more success, and teams and supporters have egged each other on to ever greater achievements. Busby, first at City then United, Revie, a City player, and inventor of The Revie Plan, Mercer, Shankly and Ferguson have all contributed to the development of the sport and the dedicated following it has.

As for the players – even for a City fan like me it was great to see Jones’ clever, instant pass to set up Young for England’s second. Jones’ confidence seems immense, and will be a real asset for England – but it doesn’t match Sturridge’s sheer arrogance. Hobbling off with a bruised toe – a comical sight for the cynic – he exhaled passion and anger. What a loss when we let him go to Chelsea. His first touch and a confident run almost led to a goal: he has so much ability and should surely start for England.

It was a joy to see Adam Johnson start ahead of Walcott – didn’t Capello have his favourites? A couple of sure touches from him, but he didn’t match the confidence he shows in a City shirt. Barry also looked less of a player – but when Barry plays for City Silva always makes himself available, and makes the team more progressive. England had no one of that stature in an attacking midfield role – no one prepared to run as hard. Perhaps that is the best place for Sturridge. I am sure he believes he could do it. So do I.

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