With the 2018 FIFA World Cup getting closer, I spoke with Beeston FC coach Charlie Walker to find out what he thinks about the tournament and why England will win it! (yes, seriously)
What are your first memories of the World Cup?
My first memories of the World Cup, where when England beat Italy 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley and Kevin Keegan scored an amazing header from the penalty spot. But it wasn’t enough, and we didn’t qualify for the 1978 World Cup.
Which was your favourite World Cup?
Italia 90, when England got to the semi-finals. I was a student and it was just great following their progress at a World Cup, which is obviously quite unusual in my life time! I just loved the excitement and drama of it all. David Platt scored that amazing shoulder goal, against Belgium in the last minute to put us through. After that you just saw children everywhere trying to recreate that goal.
What do you make of England’s group?
I think our group is quite tricky. Belgium are very good. I think Tunisia are playing quite well, but I’m optimistic and I think we will get through the group stage. If we get through the group stage, like in Italia 90 where we struggled through, but grew into the tournament, I don’t see why we can’t go on a run and it might be quite exciting.
Which player is crucial to England’s chances this summer?
I suppose the obvious one is Harry Kane, because you’ve got to have someone who can bag a lot of goals to progress, I think that’s a given. The other obvious one’s are the goalkeeper (which I presume will be Jordan Pickford) as the Champions League final showed you can’t fail in that area. I really like Jesse Lingard, he seems to play without fear which for an England player is something. His runs and his movement seem good to me, so I think he brings a lot of quality, and I think he could make a difference.
What do you make of the expectations around this England team?
In a way our best chance this year is that our expectations are so low. The players are quite young so if the expectations are so low and they don’t feel a great deal of pressure, there’s no reason why they can’t come together and succeed. Greece won the Euro’s in 2004, which no one expected, so there’s definitely talent in our team, I think they’ve just got to stay calm.
Who do you see winning the golden boot at this year’s tournament?
I’ll go for Griezmann on the basis that he’s been there and done it before at the Euro’s a few years ago.
Finally, who’s your pick to win it?
I’m going to go mad and go with England. In reality I don’t think they will, but I just like the fact that nobody expects us to do that well, I think that’s really good and I like the squad.
I think one of the problems we’ve had in the past, is that even though we’ve had a more talented group of players, we struggled to put it all together on the pitch. This group of players seem to be able to translate their club form, to the international stage. I’m hoping that like when England won The Ashes in 2005, where we had a fairly young test team who weren’t tarnished by failure, that our group of players have that optimism.
A lot of them have a good relationship with Southgate from when he was coaching the England Under 21 team, so I’m just hoping that comes together and creates a positive dynamic. I think the group stage will be hard, but if we get through that, then theirs an outside chance.
How are things going with Beeston FC since we last spoke?
Things are going well. We now get 40 girls every week playing girls football and that continues until the end of July. Any girls aged 5 to 13 are welcome to come along and join.
Also, the club house at our home ground on Trent Vale road, is not great but we are applying for a grant from the Football foundation to try and regenerate that, to create a facility which has four changing rooms, a function room, kitchen and full disability access. The cost of that is around £500,000, and we’ve had plans drawn up by an architect in Beeston, which have been submitted to the Football Foundation. We’ve got through the first stage of the Football Foundation process which is really good. Now we have to develop the plans further and try to find some funding to put towards whatever the Football Foundation will pay if they accept our bid.