England Under 21's were in town tonight and thanks to our links with the FA, Blyth Bombers were in the stands to cheer them on.
With a 6pm kick off, the kids were all desperate to escape school on the 'B' of the bell and for their dad's to hack it through the rush hour traffic into Sheffield city centre. For those of you who support one of the Steel city's clubs and go to evening matches, traffic is a well known enemy of the pre-match pie and Bovril.
It was busier than expected on the walk to the ground, with lots of excited kids going to what was probably their first 'England' game. None were more excited than two of our own Under 8's who left the car park and started singing good natured England songs. The kind of singing that their mums would find 'enthusiastic' and non family members would describe as 'cats fighting near the dustbins'. The singing continued until we entered the tunnels beneath Bramall Lane roundabout, where we met an equally loud contingent of Ukraine fans. Not since a wonky smoke machine flummoxed Cliff Richards on Top of the Pops have I seen singers go so quiet so quickly. Fast forward to the end of the tunnel and they soon chirped up again as youthful exuberance carried the singing on well into the first half.
As a coach, it was good to see Ady Boothroyd continuing to build a style of play that replicates the current England team. No doubt some of the lads on show tonight are only a few years away from a full England call up and this can only help their transition. However in their overwhelming desire to play out from the back, Gunn, the England goalie, played about 30 seconds as a makeshift right-back. It was brilliant to hear our own boys shouting out helpful tips such as "Don't pass across your own goal" and "play it up the wing". At least we know they listen in training even if sometimes they forget to do it in the heat of a match.
Calvert-Lewin scored a well worked opener just before the break and the young lions went in for the half time oranges ahead.
Most of the 22,000 crowd must have wanted oranges (or pies!) too and quickly beat me to the refreshment area. Those who didn't win the race pushed in anyway! So, I missed the first 20 mins of the second half in a very British queue, whilst the U21's continued their brand of continental possession football. The Bombers were a little quieter in the second half as the game lacked spice and the half time sausage rolls took their toll on the kids digestive system.
It sparked back into life in the 80th minute when a pretty innocuous Ukrainian cross was met with a downward header that hit the deck and bounced over the flying Gunn in goal. Even though he got his hand to it, it wasn't enough to stop it going in.
Positively, neither the Lions or the Bombers let their heads drop and our kids started to cheer their heroes on again as they went in search of the winner.
It came 4 minutes later when an almost identical cross was met by Liverpool's Solanki, who also headed his effort downward and into the net. The lions celebrated with hugs and high fives, our lads celebrated by frantically waving their flags, seemingly in an attempt to impede our view of the pitch as we sat behind them! The team saw out the four minutes of injury time with no real scares and our lads and dad's made their way back to the cars, discussing the good, the bad and the downright crazy. My son was taking his time to answer a question on who he thought had played the best as we were leaving the car park. This is what I saw when I turned around...
No doubt he was dreaming about his England debut and scoring the winner like Solanki. I'll have to ask him the question again in the morning!
If you want to find out more about the club or enquire about your child joining, please visit the website @ www.BlythBomers.com and get in touch. You never know, you could be in the stands with us at the next Young Lions match.