Money no object for Sanchez's small fry

Can £10m worth of Northern Ireland's finest upset an England side valued at £150m? Glenn Moore reports

Such is the mis-match at Windsor Park tonight. Sven Goran Eriksson may inwardly moan, when he arrives at Highbury, Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge on a match-day, at the number of ineligible foreign players on view, but his problem is still more who to leave out than who to select. As his counterpart, Lawrie Sanchez, said last night: "It doesn't matter who plays for England, they still have Premiership players doubling up in every position."

In four years in the post Eriksson has never seen a Football League match (and whatever Andrew Johnson was told he is not likely to start now). Sanchez spends most of his working life at the various outposts of the Championship and lower leagues. With a population base of 1.5m Northern Irish players have always been thin on the ground in England's top flight. The influx of overseas players has pushed them further out of sight.

Thus if Nick Barmby, Gavin McCann, Chris Powell, or any of the other Englishmen selected by Eriksson for his first match in February 2001, but long since discarded, hailed from Northern Ireland it is reasonable to assume they would still be playing international football.

Instead, Barmby's Hull City team-mate, Stuart Elliott, is likely to play as will Southampton reserve Chris Baird and Plymouth's Tony Capaldi. And, unless Sanchez fields a more conservative formation than he did against Azerbaijan on Saturday, so will Quinn. He once cost £500,000 but his last three moves have been on free transfers. Five of England's team have cost more than £20m.

It could end in a 6-0 drubbing, as in Portugal's weekend thrashing of Luxembourg. But it is more likely to resemble the Netherlands' narrow 1-0 win in Armenia on Saturday or, England's scrappy win over Wales in Cardiff that day.

One reason is most of the England players will not relish the conditions. Having long been destined for great things most have only ever played on the big stages, not the backwaters of repertory. Beckham played for Preston in the lower divisions, as did Ferdinand for Bournemouth and Frank Lampard for Swansea, but they were on loan, sent out by Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp to toughen them up. None of Eriksson's team has ever earned a living with a club outside the Premiership. With the exception of Aaron Hughes and Steven Davis, all of Sanchez's squad have. Thus the cramped and rustic facilities at Linfield Park will not discomfort them as they may England's élite players.

For most of England's players the nearest they have come to real work was cleaning the first team's boots and scrubbing the dressing room, and the more recent academy graduates will not even have done that. Sanchez's squad includes Steve Jones, who helped build Old Trafford while working in construction; Elliott, who spent six years cleaning windows while playing for Glentoran; and Ivan Sproule, a former civil engineer.

For these players tonight is the opportunity of their lives. And in Sanchez they have a manager who knows all about giant-killers seizing the moment. As a manager Sanchez led Wycombe Wanderers to the FA Cup semi-finals but he is best known for heading the goal by which Wimbledon defeated Liverpool to win the 1988 FA Cup.

"The players have a chance to write their names into Northern Ireland football folklore," he said. "These chances don't come along often in a career. This is a great opportunity to make history. My career hangs on one such incident.

"I've said to the players that to achieve what they want to achieve against England they have to believe they can do it. The sides I played in and managed that caused upsets all believed they could do it. There are doubters even now but it is my job between now and kick-off to convince them that they can achieve it."

Sanchez, despite his meagre resources, had the bottle to send Jeff Whitley and Phil Mulryne, two experienced players, home last week after they went on a bender. He was rewarded with his team's first competitive win in four years. England would be wise not to underestimate their opponents. After all, as Posh 'n' Becks will know, Primark is more fashionable than Armani right now.

Life and Style
Social media users in Mexico who commented on cartel violence have been killed in the past
techTweets not showing up or loading this morning, users say
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker