ESFA Under 18 Squad – International Season Review

Thursday 26 April 2018By ESFA Office

Last Updated:
30/04/2018 10:25:27

In October 2017, 110 years after the first international match was played by the English Schools FA, the selection process of this year’s international squads began in earnest. The selection process opened with regional trials, where players were put through their paces before coming together for matches the following month. The North would play the Midlands at Stafford Town and the South East taking on the South West at Thatcham School. The passion and desire of all the players who played in these matches was noted by the international selectors, however, not all trialists can be chosen to represent the ESFA in the final squad. The field would be whittled down to 32 players who had shown outstanding ability and the mental attributes desired to represent their country. In January, the international hopefuls would agglomerate at Lilleshall National Sports Centre for two days of training and matches. The trialists played two matches during the stay, taking on the RAF U23 team and the Royal Navy U23 team. The match against the RAF turned out to be a close 2-1 victory for the ESFA team on a wet and slippery pitch. The schoolboys were the faster out of the gate taking a 2-0 lead before having a goal clawed back by the RAF side. The second match would see an emphatic 6-0 victory over the Royal Navy, with the ESFA side showing a sublime attacking flair combined with defensive discipline that would hold critical acclaim in Italy.

Following the last 32 trial weekend, the final squad was chosen and two weeks later as the players were re-assembled at Lilleshall for the first time as the final 18 man squad. The boys received their official training kits as provided by official ESFA kit providers, Pendle, before team talks with the management team for the season. The team also partook in some media training with the ESFA’s marketing department, involving the team filling out player profiles and spending some time posing for the camera! The final squad list was as follows:


Callum Coulter



Fraser Colling



Sam McCallum



Ethan Brooks

Greater Manchester


Cormac Pike



Adam Crowther



David Neligwa



King Baidoo



Jack Butler



Robert Deda



Harvey Howell



Noah Smerdon



Daniel Gould



Alex Doyle

Greater Manchester


Cieran Jackson



Kyle O’Connor-Ajayi



Emmanuel Ogunrinde



Ryan Penny


The boys’ competitive season kicked off in March with a home game against the Republic of Ireland at Luton Town FC. The game opened with a tense half with both teams looking to find their feet in the competition. Butler and Ogunride would lead the line for England creating chanced throughout the game. However, Callum Coulter stood out for England with a commanding goalkeeping performance. He would be tested early on from a free kick that he would turn round the post with a spectacular diving save and his performance sustained for the full 90 minutes. Ultimately, neither side managed to break their opponents down and the match ended as a 0-0 draw over 90 minutes.

Only one week later, the squad returned to the field, this time at Bootham Crescent, the home of York City FC. Their Scottish opponents would come into the match having not won a game on English soil in 18 years. The game was played with the frantic pace and high intensity that comes with a derby. With full blooded tackles flying in, the Scots scored a penalty with one of their first forays into the English area. Daniel MacKay, brought down by Ethan Brookes inside the area, stepped up to take the penalty but Coulter produced another top quality save, low to his left to deny the attack. The ball would, moments later, be gathered by Reece Rintoul wide on the right, swinging a cross deftly onto the head of the leaping MacKay who placed the ball into the far corner of the net. The English would hold the ball and make probing attacks for the rest of the half but were unable to break down the Scottish rear-guard before the half. After the break the English side looked to be the better side, but their efforts would bear no fruit and the frustration began to show on the field. Captain Cormac Pike was sent off for a poor tackle on Scotland’s Nathan Fell, with only fifteen minutes to play which would make the final parts of the match an uphill battle. With moments left on the clock the fouled Fell picked up the ball on the right flank of the pitch before beating two men and placing the ball into the far left hand corner past a flying Coulter. Scotland were to pick up the points at the end of a sublime game of football.

Having played their two home matches first, the English side would take to the road for their next two trips. Their first would see them travel to Cardiff Met University to take on the Welsh Schoolboys team. The away day had the worst possible start with only a few minutes on the clock when a whipped Welsh cross would deflect up into the air off an English foot before looping over the helpless Coulter in goals. This seemed to shock the English into action as they went on to dominate the match from this point. Even after Wales suffered two sending’s off, the English were still not able to make the two man advantage count as they fell to a 1-0 defeat.

The last game of the campaign for England saw them travel to Belfast to take on Northern Ireland. The Irish started the game the stronger side as they took an early lead after nine minutes. The English looked to hit right back as Sam McCallum was brought down in the box by the Northern Ireland keeper. Cormack Pike stepped up to take the spot kick but the Irish keeper redeemed his earlier error and denied the captain’s redemption. The Irish would double their lead after a corner from the Northern Irish sailed over all the players in the box and curled into the top corner unassisted. The English defence would be broken for the third time just before the half time whistle as their attacker skipped through on goal and slotted the ball home to give a 3-0 lead. The English put up a real fight after the break and the side eventually broke their goal scoring luck as Adam Crowther finally glanced a header home from a set piece.

The ESFA would like to send their thanks and appreciation to all parents and supporters of this year’s process for their continued support through the trials and the Centenary Shield campaign. Furthermore, the ESFA would like to extend their thanks to International partners, Pendle, inspiresport and Pass4Soccer for their ongoing support of the campaign.

The ESFA would like to wish all this year’s squad members and trialists well in their future careers both inside and outside of football.


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