The spring of 2011 will hold memories of silverware for England U-17 forward Hallam Hope. The team he supported as a boy, Manchester United, won their 19th Premier League title and his current club, Everton, proudly lifted the Premier Academy League trophy. Hope's first club, Manchester City, also won their first trophy for 35 years, the FA Cup in May, and had things been different he could have been joining the celebrations at Eastlands rather than Goodison Park.
Hope was released by City when he was 11 and was picked up by Everton, where he has remained ever since. "I played as a striker at my Sunday league team and was signed by City," he told FIFA.com. "They kept on moving me around and playing me in different positions, even at centre-half, but never in my actual position as a striker. I think that might be one of the reasons why things didn't go well for either.
"Since being at Everton I've played the vast majority of my games up front – I've played out wide a couple of times to help the team, which I don't mind doing. All of the people and players who are involved at Everton are really good, from the Academy, to the reserves, to the first team. I'm really grateful to the club for giving me a chance. Everton's got a really good reputation for developing players and bringing them through to the first team and that gives me a lot of confidence. They've also got a great history in developing centre-forwards and I hope to follow in their footsteps."
Qualification gave confidence boost
The next trophy which is up for grabs for Hope is the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Indeed, the teenage hotshot played a key role in helping England qualify for the tournament. The striker scored three times at the UEFA U-17 Championship in Serbia, including a brace against the hosts, to help the Three Lions to the semi-finals which guaranteed John Peacock's side a place in Mexico.
We had some very good experiences in Serbia. We were put in positions where we needed to win games – and we did, we’re going to take the positives from that and now look to the World Cup.
"I think the tournament went well," continued Hope. "Qualification for the World Cup was the minimum requirement which the coach was looking for and it was one of my main targets too because I really want to play in it. It was good for me to score some goals. One of the goals I scored against Serbia was the best I've ever scored for England and that really boosts my confidence. But it's not about me, it's about the team – and those goals helped the team.”
England eventually exited the competition due to a single-goal defeat at the hands of the Netherlands, the eventual winners of the competition. While the result was hard to take at the time, the striker from South Manchester has his sights firmly fixed on 6 June, the date that the England squad get together prior to the World Cup and subsequently 19 June, the date of their opening game against Rwanda in Pachuca.
No fear in Mexico
"It was a little bit disappointing to lose in the semi-final to the Netherlands,” he said. “They were better than us in the first half, but the second half I thought we dominated them. It was quite an even game, but they just had a little bit of luck with the deflection off our defender for the goal. If we were to meet them in Mexico, we wouldn't fear them – in fact we'd love the opportunity to come up against them again.
“We had some very good experiences in Serbia. We were put in positions where we needed to win games – and we did, we’re going to take the positives from that and now look to the World Cup. I'm really excited about going to Mexico and I know the whole team is too. It's going to be a huge event, a fantastic tournament and hopefully will do well in it.”
Just as it could have been very different for Hope at club level, it could have also been a very different story at international level with the 17-year-old eligible to play for Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. “My dad is from Barbados and my Nana is also from there,” smiled Hope. “I'm eligible to play for Trinidad and Tobago through my grandad, but the main link is with Barbados – all my uncles live over there. It's not that far from Mexico, so maybe a couple of them will come over and support me!"