By Matt Badcock
England C chief Paul Fairclough believes Non-League’s Lions will show they have technical talent when they take on Wales C this month.
Boss Fairclough has named his 16-man squad for the clash at Caernarfon Town on March 24 with 11 new faces hoping to make their international debuts.
Barrow are flying high at the top of the National League and they will have three representatives in Josh Kay, Lewis Hardcastle and Patrick Brough.
Boreham Wood also have a treble tops with top scorer Kabongo Tshimanga, Sorba Thomas and highly-rated right-back Kane Smith – who has been selected before but missed out through injury – all getting the nod.
There are also first call-ups for Kiderminster Harriers’ Sam Austin, Barnet striker Josh Walker, Chesterfield’s Liam Mandeville, Harrogate’s Will Smith, Sutton defender Ben Goodliffe and Oxford City goalkeeper Craig King.
This is the third instalment of games between these two rivals since Wales C, made up of Welsh Premier League players, formed in 2018.
England won a thrilling 3-2 game in Barry before an entertaining 2-2 draw at Salford City last season.
Kurt Willoughby scored a free-kick in that game and he returns after also leading the line against Estonia last summer.
Hartlepool keeper Ben Killip continues his run as England’s No.1 while Gateshead midfielder Greg Olley returns along with Barnet’s Wes Fonguck.
“It’s a very talented group of players,” Fairclough told The NLP. “Hopefully they all stay injury free between now and then bit I’m really excited about working with this group. It’s very talented.
“Some of the regulars are being rewarded for their good work at their clubs with another international cap. The others we’ve identified as being real quality.
“Wales are an open age group but our agenda is a bit different. We want to win, of course we do and the group I’ve picked are winners, but it’s an opportunity for us to get together and really enjoy a game of football.
“Wales have selected Caernarfon because it’s a hotbed of football. They’ve been selling tickets for a couple of months now so we’re expecting to be met by a wall of Welsh voices.”
The England C squad will meet up on the Saturday evening after their games before two days of preparation ahead of the fixture.
It’s a quick turnaround for a new squad but Fairclough is confident they will be united by representing their country.
“I could have gone down a much more physical route,” Fairclough said. “Wales like to play football but because they are older they are strong men.
“So I could have picked a squad with that in mind but I don’t see that as my role, I haven’t picked a side to compete on that level. I’ve selected a group of technical players who will want to get the ball and play as much as we can.
“That’s why I enjoy this so much. Of course there’s still pressure to win games and for them to perform on the day.
“I can’t really remember when we’ve had a side who haven’t turned up. England C doesn’t work like that. They are so highly-motivated and proud that they’re wearing an England shirt.”
England C squad to face Wales C:
Ben Killip – Hartlepool United
Craig King – Oxford City
Kurt Willoughby – AFC Fylde
Wes Fonguck – Barnet
Josh Walker – Barnet
Patrick Brough – Barrow
Josh Kay – Barrow
Lewis Harcastle – Barrow
Kane Smith – Boreham Wood
Kabongo Thsimanga – Boreham Wood
Sorba Thomas – Boreham Wood
Liam Mandeville – Chesterfield
Greg Olley – Gateshead
Will Smith – Harrogate Town
Sam Austin – Kidderminster Harriers
Ben Goodliffe – Sutton United
By Matt Badcock