Wigan Athletic youngsters Callum McManaman and Lee Nicholls have been selected to go to the Under 20’s World Cup with England. To have two young men representing the town of Wigan in such a competitive sport which is played the length and breadth of the country by millions of children and not just in areas which have a WN & WA postcode and parts of Yorkshire is a truly amazing achievement.
The name of Wigan is already WORLD FAMOUS no more so than in Columbia where Wigan Athletic are a household name due to striker Hugo Rodallega’s exploits in the Premier League.
Given the excitable nature of the local press to give several pages of coverage to some other sport where some local lads recently travelled as far as Leeds to represent a team, in theory operating under the name of England despite not fielding any representative from most major cities and counties across the fair island of England, well I simply can’t imagine how much press that this fantastic story of Wigan Athletic’s young players travelling the globe and representing ALL OF THE COUNTRY OF ENGLAND not just certain sections of the M62 corridor will be plastered all over this week’s newspapers. So let’s just apologise in advance at the media scrum this is going to cause.
In all seriousness, the names of McManaman and Nicholls will hopefully go on to become household names and they will achieve this ambition with Wigan Athletic. We are all aware of the situation football finds itself in, the Premier League is made up of 500 of the best players across the world, such is the global competitive nature of football and consequently where you have true competition, not a cartel of a handful of local schools to pick players from, and the success stakes are so incredibly high, it becomes all that more notable that a football club in a small town like ours can produce footballers capable of playing for their national team.
Enough ranting and stating the bleeding obvious, here at TNS we wish both Lee & Callum well in what should be a wonderful experience for them. Here’s the club’s official press release…..
The club are delighted to confirm that Latics’ young professionals Callum McManaman and Lee Nicholls have been included in England’s final 21 man squad for the FIFA Under 20s World Cup, to be held in Colombia in July and August – the first time any players from Wigan Athletic have been involved in the event.
Manager Roberto Martinez has described the news as ‘a real piece of Latics history’.
Head coach Brian Eastick, assisted by England Under 21 Manager Stuart Pearce, had initially selected both players in a group of 30, but they have now made the cut for the squad which will travel to Colombia next month, along with the cream of young players drawn from leading Barclays Premier League clubs including Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City.
Lee Nicholls has played for his country at Under 19 level but for McManaman, this would be a first cap for England at any level and manager Roberto Martinez says it is a just reward for the work they have been putting in.
“This is a real piece of Latics history,” he said, “Callum had a great season last campaign, where he broke through into the first team picture on merit and scored on his debut in the FA Cup. Lee experienced being in and around a first team squad during three loan spells at other clubs in the football league, as well as training and travelling with the Wigan first team.
“They have both progressed extremely well over the past two seasons and this call-up is a reward for all their hard work. They both have enormous potential and to be selected to represent your country is a huge honour, both for the players, but also for Wigan Athletic as a club.
“We wish them all the best and hope they can enjoy the experience and be great ambassadors for Wigan and England. They will get all our support from long distance.”
England have been drawn in a tough-looking Group F, alongside Argentina, Mexico and North Korea. They will be hoping to progress and face further tests against the likes of Brazil, Spain, France and Portugal.
The competition will take place all over Colombia, with England’s group games being played out in the 46,000 capacity Estadio Atanasio Girardot in Medellin and in the 26,500 capacity Estadio Jaime Morón León in Cartagena.
ENGLAND v North Korea, Medellin, Friday 29 July, 2.30pm local time, 8.30pm UK time
ENGLAND v Argentina, Medellin, Monday 1 August, 8.00pm local time, 2.00am UK time
ENGLAND v Mexico, Cartagena, Thursday 4 August, 5.00pm local time, 11.00pm UK time
The final, should England progress will be played in the capital Bogota on Saturday 20 August, which would mean both players missing Latics’ opening two league games.
But Roberto Martinez added: “That is not ideal preparation as far as the team is concerned but the World Cup at Under 20s level is a unique football event, and this is a once in a life-time opportunity to play it.”
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