Football: Stoke’s Soccer Sevens squad “sprinkled with talent” – Hodges
- Updated: May 20, 2015
May 20, 2015: Glyn Hodges has selected a Stoke City U-21 squad “sprinkled with talent” for next week’s HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens at Hong Kong Football Club, where The Potters will face fellow first-timers Atletico Madrid in Saturday’s group stage.
Hodges’ charges include 17-year-old midfielder Ollie Shenton, who was called up to the England U-18s last September and made his Premier League debut for Mark Hughes’ first team as a substitute against Manchester City this February.
Yusuf Coban, selected for Germany’s U-19s in March, Austria U-21 goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann, midfielder Eddy Lecygne (France) and centre-back Ryan O’Reilly (Ireland) are among the squad’s other youth internationals.
“We’re going to be competitive,” said Hodges, Stoke’s U-21 head coach since 2013, when Hughes took over as first-team coach before leading the club to successive ninth-places finishes in the Premier League.
“Ollie Shenton trains regularly with the first team, Yusuf is a strong player, while Bachmann is an Austria U-21 international who will be meeting up with the national team after he comes back from Hong Kong. We’re sprinkled with a lot of talent.”
Hodges’ side have faced England’s other Soccer Sevens contenders in the U-21 Development League, so the former midfielder is excited about facing Atletico Madrid in Group D, which also includes HKFA U-20 and Yau Yee League Select.
“The draw’s great for us and it’s going to be a great experience,” Hodges said. “We played against Leicester and West Ham last season, and have played Aston Villa and Newcastle twice this season [in Division Two], so to come over and play Atletico Madrid and the Hong Kong teams is brilliant. It’s an experience we’d want.”
Hodges, 52, played for Sing Tao and Instant Dict at the end of a playing career that featured 18 caps for Wales. He believes Hong Kong’s heat and humidity could be the biggest challenge as Stoke try to win on their debut, as Newcastle United did in 2012.
“I think Newcastle did absolutely fantastic to win it on their debut. We’re going to come and do as well as we possibly can, but I’m not going to say we’re going to win it outright,” Hodges said. “The things we’re up against are the different sets of players, the Spanish boys and Hong Kong players, but the main thing is the temperature and the humidity.
“None of our players will have experienced this so we need to come to terms with it and that’s where Newcastle must have done brilliantly. I’ve experienced it, but it’s tough trying to explain to the boys just how hot and humid it is. The first training session out there will be an eye opener for everyone, I expect.”
West Ham, top seeds in Group B, are making their first appearance since 2012 and will bring a young squad from the club’s famed Academy.
Strikers Jordan Brown and Djair Parfitt-Williams, and defenders Josh Pask and Alex Pike are among the players to look out for in Mark Phillips’ squad as the Hammers look to win the Cup for the first time.
The 16-team Main Tournament features four of the last five champions, with Newcastle United (2012) and Leicester City (2013) facing off in Group A, Hong Kong champions Kitchee (2011) drawn with West Ham in Group B, and five-time winners Aston Villa (2002, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010) headlining Group C.
HKFA U-18 were recently confirmed as the final side in the Main Tournament and join Villa, Wellington Phoenix and Hong Kong Football Club in Group C.
The tournament will kick off at 6.00pm next Friday (May 29) with 10 Masters group games. Entry is free on the Friday evening, while tickets for the weekend are priced at HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass and are available through Cityline.
Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Leicester City (ENG), BC Rangers (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
Group B: West Ham United (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), Shanghai SIPG (CHN), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
Group C: Aston Villa (ENG), Wellington Phoenix (NZL), HKFA U-18 (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)
Group D: Stoke City (ENG), Atletico Madrid (SPA), HKFA U-20 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
Group A: Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC – BTS (HKG), Kitchee All Stars (HKG), KCC Veterans (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG)
Group B: Citibank All Stars (ENG), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), SCC Tigers (SIN), Discovery Bay (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG)
For tickets, visit Cityline (www.cityline.com)
Source: HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens (www.hksoccersevens.com); Editing by SportAsia