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North Riding Players and Coaches Look Forward to Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

On Sunday 16 September, several amateur players and coaches from North Yorkshire and Teesside will fulfil a life-long ambition, when they pull on the famous Three Lions jersey to represent England at the UEFA Regions Cup in Romania.

Made up of players who regularly turn out for clubs competing within the North Riding County FA-affiliated North Riding Football League, the representative side won the FA Inter-League Cup and will head out to Romania later this week, where they’ll face West Slovakia, Romanian side Buz─âu and an Irish league representative side in Group 2.

Ahead of the hotly-anticipated trip, manager Ben Wheatley, coach Nick Smales and several of the players spoke during a training session at North Riding FA headquarters about their preparation for the tournament and how eager they are to wear the famous Three Lions badge.

Ben Wheatley
Club: Boro Rangers
Position: Manager
Occupation: Trade Assistant
Age: 32

“These last few weeks have been quite hectic. The season has started for Boro Rangers, so trying to run that as well as possible at the same time as organising training sessions, friendlies and events has been tough – but I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we are all over the moon. Winning the Inter-League Cup was special, but this part is what dreams are made of. I’m looking forward to the whole experience and I just hope that we do ourselves proud and take everything in. I’m really grateful to be involved; being NRFL manager has been a great privilege.”

Training

Nick Smales
Club: Boro Rangers
Position: Coach
Occupation: Project Manager
Age: 35

“Preparation is going really well but I think it is difficult to be 100% ready due to the magnitude of the trip. However, it is exciting nonetheless. The team have been training together to get prepared and used to one another – something which is crucial given that many play for different teams. I’m looking forward to working with The FA’s team and learning from their experiences. It will be our first time playing against foreign sides. That’s exciting in itself, as we’ll get to see different teams, lifestyles and behaviours. I am sure we will do ourselves, the North Riding FA and The FA proud.”

Stuart Rose
Club: Boro Rangers
Position: Striker
Occupation: Electrician
Age: 27

“I’ve been training hard, doing plenty of gym work and eating better to make sure I’m prepared. To be able to represent my country with this group of lads – it doesn’t get any better. I’m particularly looking forward to playing against the Republic of Ireland (22 September), as they’ve won the competition before. Hopefully I’ll be able to score in the group games and help the team to victory.”

Tie

Chris Norlund
Club: St Mary’s 1947
Position: Full-back
Occupation: Customer Relations Manager
Age: 30

“I started my preparation fully in June, when I was going on runs around the River Tees before upping the intensity with hill training. It’s been really good to get minutes under the belt with my club as well. I couldn’t be prouder to be representing my country – everyone I know is buzzing for me and the rest of the lads. I got married in November and I’ve had to put my stag do on hold for this trip! But on a serious note, I can’t wait to put the England kit on for the first time. That’s something every kid dreams of doing and something we all thought was beyond us.”

Joel Andrew Guy
Club: Boro Rangers
Position: Central-midfielder
Occupation: PE Teacher
Age: 30

“Preparation is going according to plan. We’re upping the minutes every week whilst trying not to over-play or over-train. I’m feeling fit. It’s every boy’s dream to play in a competitive game with the England shirt on your back. Being selected to represent your country is the greatest honour in football. I was advised to retire from playing football at the age of 27 after a serious knee injury, but being able to represent my country at 30 vindicates the decision not to. All of the hard work to come back from that injury has been worth it. I’d also like to thank the North Riding FA for everything they’ve done for us all.”

Meeting

Patrick Pisani
Club: Thornaby Dubliners FC
Position: Goalkeeper
Occupation: Senior Engineer
Age: 35

“Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying to catch up with pre-season after recently getting married. I’m so proud to be representing my country but I honestly don’t think it has hit me yet – and probably won’t until we are stood in our England kits. It feels weird to be representing my country at 35! Being able to experience what it must be like to be a professional footballer is something I’m most looking forward to. It’s also good to be able to share this experience with all of my team-mates.

To keep track of the team’s performances in the UEFA Regions Cup, please visit www.uefa.com/regionscup

Team Photo