Wide boys showing promise
© FIFA.com

As coach John Peacock readily admitted, there were plenty of positives from England's hard fought 1-1 draw with Korea DPR in Jeju on Saturday, not least the Three Lions' first-ever goal at a FIFA U-17 World Cup. The move was finished expertly by Victor Moses after Nathan Porritt had moved in from the right flank, before firing a left footed shot at O Mun Song, which the keeper could only parry into the grateful striker's path.

But what made the goal intriguing was that Porritt, the team's left winger, received the ball on the right hand side, a position usually occupied by his Middlesbrough team-mate Jonathan Franks. Yet, what is even more interesting is that this tactical switch was not initiated by Peacock, but from the initiative of players themselves.

"It's something they do fairly regularly," the England coach told FIFA.com. "They're team-mates at Middlesbrough, so they know each other's game really well. I thought they both combined extremely well for the goal. Jonathan had a good game - it was good play for him to set up Nathan by cutting inside from the wing. Nathan hit the target, which was crucial and Victor, being Victor, was on call to put the ball in the back of the net."

Franks and Porritt have been playing together since the age of 11 for Middlesbrough Football Club, a team from the north east of England who ply their trade in the Premiership. In recent years, the club has gained a reputation for developing young talent. Indeed, in the final game of the 2005/6 season, 15 members of their 16-man squad were born within a 25 mile radius of the stadium. Indeed, at one stage of the match, all 11 Boro players on the pitch were products of the club's Academy.

"I think the reason why the club have got such a strong youth system is down to the coaches," said Porritt. "They work with the young players a lot and focus on their development.

"The fact that they have given other youngsters a chance in the first team, together with the amount of time they invest in us gives us a lot of confidence for the future," said Franks. "We hope that ultimately we'll get an opportunity to play Premiership football.

"I've got no doubt that the experience that we have of playing for Middlesbrough helps England," said Franks. "We know how each other plays, we understand each other's game - so that gives us an advantage. We're friends off the pitch too as well as being team-mates on it, which I suppose makes us work even harder for one another."

Squad rotation
But for now, their attentions lie with England, the FIFA U-17 World Cup and their next match with New Zealand. "We're looking to stretch them at the back if we can and score a few goals," said Porritt. "But keeping a clean sheet is our main objective."

His team-mate interjected: "With it being England and New Zealand, there's bound to be a natural rivalry anyway, just like in the cricket and rugby matches between the two sides. They're going to want to play a lot better than they did against Brazil, so it is going to be a very tough game."

Yet despite their good performances against Korea DPR, Peacock has not given the duo any assurances that they will be facing the Kiwis. "I am undecided as to what the starting XI will be," he said. "It's going to take a squad to win this tournament I am quite happy to rotate players around as and when I feel it is right to do so."

One player who is hoping that the coach's rotation policy works in his favour is the duo's Boro team-mate, Jason Steele. Illness ruled the keeper out of Saturday's match with Korea DPR, which took place on his 17th birthday. Yet, Franks and Porritt were quick to tease their unfortunate team-mate, who was not around to defend himself!

"It's a sort of tradition within the team," laughed Franks. "Every player in the squad, no matter where they're from, picks on poor Steeley. No matter what he says, or what he does, he gets hammered for it! For example, he dyed his hair before he came out here - and it turned ginger. He looked more like Steve Sidwell than Jason Steele!"

Just as Sidwell has made his mark on the Premiership last season, so too could Franks, Porritt and Steele in the coming years.

Turning their obvious potential to the standard of the Premiership will take time, effort and enthusiasm on behalf of the boys and their coaches, but for club and country, they are in good hands.