Freelance writer and journalist, Steve Menary, provided Island Pulse with a football tournament preview of the 2011 NatWest Island Games which are taking place on the Isle of Wight between 25th June-1st July.
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Several football teams playing later this month are featured in Steve’s book entitled ”OUTCASTS – The Lands That FIFA Forgot” and makes interesting reading for all football fans.
Steve Menary writes:
Expensive insurance for professional players is now essential and that has ruled out a number of Football League players from the squads at various islands.
The Jersey Football Association did not consider selecting Bristol City’s Brett Pittman. AFC Bournemouth defender Shaun Cooper and James Hayter of Doncaster will not feature either for the hosts, who may rue that lack of experience.
Matt Prior, a semi-professional at Thatcham Town and Winchester City’s Tom Dunford from Sydenham’s League side Winchester City are both in the Isle of Wight (IoW) squad that will face a strong challenge in Group B from Gibraltar.
The colony was briefly admitted to UEFA in 2006 only to be ousted after political pressure from Spain but went on to win the football title at the 2007 Island Games in Rhodes.
The Gibraltar FA, formed in 1895 and one of the world’s oldest associations, is still agitating for UEFA membership and Allen Bula’s side surprised the Faroes 3-0 in March. Only three players from that game featured in the Faroese XI that recently beat Estonia 2-0 in a Euro 2012 qualifier but Gibraltar will still be the IoW’s most dangerous group opponents.
Only group winners qualify and if the IoW get out of Group B they are likely to face holders Jersey in the semi-final at Cowes Sports on June 30.
The only team to win the Island Games title three times, Jersey recently beat neighbours Guernsey in the annual Muratti Vase, and Craig Culkin’s squad includes a number of players to watch, including player of the year, Ben Gallichan, an attacking midfielder with the Wanderers club, and 18-year-old striker Curtis Guthrie.
Jersey’s opponents in Group A include Greenland, whose long-time manager Jens Tang Olesen recently stood down. Niklas Kreutzmann, who played semi-professionally in Denmark for Aarhus Fremand, is also missing from the Greenland squad.
Jersey will be pressed closer by Rhodes, losing finalists on their tournament debut in 2007 as hosts, and Menorca – both teams were unlucky not to make the semi-finals at the last IGA on the Finnish Island of Åland in 2009.
The winner of Group C is likely to be decided by the final group game on June 28 at East Cowes Vics, where Guernsey faces on an experienced Isle of Man (IoM) team.
Winners in 2001 and 2003, Guernsey are planning to enter a team in the English non-league pyramid and will be looking to use the Island Games as a springboard for further success, while the Manxmen are managed by long-time coach Kevin Manning, who led the IoM to victory in the 2005/06 National League Systems Cup for county teams.
That victory took the IoM into Europe as England’s representatives in the 2007 UEFA Nations Cup for amateur teams. Some players from that trip remain, including experienced goalkeeper Mark Blair of Laxeys. Other Manxmen to watch include Calum Morrisey of St George’s, skipper Sean Quaye and Johhny Myers, once a junior at Stockport County.
The other sides in group C are the Swedish island of Gotland, perennial also-rans in the tournament, and the minnows of the Falklands. The main focus for the South Atlantic side will be the Small Islands Cup, which will be contested with Alderney at Rookley FC on July 1.
A number of teams to previously enter are missing this year, including 2005 winners the Shetlands. In Åland in 2009, the remote South Atlantic outpost of St Helena, which enters athletes in other sports, pledged to enter a football XV but that fizzled out after team manager Gilbert Yon died.
Froya did enter only for the Norwegian island to pull out, reducing Group D to three sides. The three-way battle between Åland, the Estonian island of Saarema and the Western Isles of Scotland should prove the closest contest but the winners are unlikely to find their way past an experienced Guernsey side in the semi-final at Brading Town on June 30.
Guernsey’s squad includes ex-professional Ryan Zico-Black, who has Under-21 caps for Northern Ireland, and former Pompey and Oxford United goalkeeper Chris Tardiff.
If the Isle of Wight prove good enough to see off Gibraltar in the group stages and overcome the anticipated threat of Jersey in their semi-final, a game with Guernsey at Newport on July 1 is the likely final.
As Island Pulse featured earlier read more click here: Steve Menary is author of Outcasts! The Lands That FIFA Forgot (Know The Score 2007), which was shortlisted for the 2008 football book of the year award.
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