Thursday, September 01, 2011

National Tea Towel Parade- England Under 21's 6 Azerbaijan Under 21's 0

I remember fondly the last Under 21 international at Vicarage Road which took place 23 years ago.  My mate Laurence and I refer to it regularly because it was at the time, and probably remains, one of the most boring games we'd ever witnessed.  For years afterwards we ceased using words like boring, dull and grim and instead would use 'Denmark Under 21's' to describe anything bad that happened.

Luckily this was about as far away from Denmark Under 21's as you could get.  It may have been against lowly Azerbaijan, or Azkaban as my Harry Potter obsessed kids insisted on calling them, but England were very impressive in every department.  Azerbaijan didn't even have a particularly bad game or do much wrong.  England were just much too good for them in the way Man U were against Arsenal at the weekend.  

Henri Lansbury got a very warm reception and had a wonderful game including scoring a brilliant and very unlikely goal to put England 2 up.  Jordan Henderson and then Martin Waghorn both competed with him for goal of the night with spectacular long range efforts.

Marvin Sordell appeared mid way through the second half and had a lively and entertaining Under 21 debut, but he must have been disappointed (despite claiming it couldn't have gone better) that he missed three good chances.  I couldn't help thinking that to become regularly involved alongside this mostly Premiership squad he needed to put away at least one of them.  However Stuart Pearce said some positive things about him so hopefully he'll get another chance.

My favourite bit of the night was actually the National Flag Parade which took place before the national anthems.  It was like a Subbuteo equivilent to that which takes places at a full Wembley international.  There you get a military regiment marching whilst holding flags that are about a quarter of the size of the pitch.  At the Vic you get a few ballboys jogging randomly around holding two tea towels with the English and Azerbaijan flags printed on them.  Classy.  Especially the way they held these up to the crowd for applause at the end of the 'parade'.   I can't wait for a similar performance at Ghana-Nigeria next month.

Whether we'll get another chance at an England Under 21 international for a long time I doubt.  A crowd of 7,738 was the second lowest crowd for a home England game at this level for two years.  Only Colchester's Weston Homes Community Stadium provided fewer fans when, a year ago, 500 less turned up for a 3-0 win against Lithuania.  In comparison almost 18,000 turned up for a friendly against Norway at Southampton over the summer.  You'd have thought with no football now at the Vic for three weeks and Marvin's inclusion a few more would've bothered.