11:59AM, Friday 12 March 2021
In the coming days Windsor’s Luke Paris, Langley’s Calvin Morgan and Burnham's Kian Duncan will be released from quarantine in Anguilla and will attempt to help the country win its first ever competitive game of football.
Anguilla are ranked as the second worst team in world football behind San Marino and they were beaten 10-0 in Luke’s first competitive match.
Since then they’ve lost 5-0, 3-0 and 3-2, so performances, if not results, are improving, but they’re still desperately searching for that sweet taste of victory.
Central defender Luke, who joined Windsor in the summer and qualifies to play for the Caribbean side through his grandmother, has brought some solidity to the side, while Kian , who plays for Burnham and Luke’s cousin Morgan, have given the side more guile in midfield and attack, however, they’ve still got plenty to prove heading into this month’s Nations League qualifying matches against the Dominican Republic on March 27 and Barbados on March 30.
Due to COVID-19, they’re currently quarantining for a couple of weeks in a complex that has a pool and a gym, and Luke’s dad Alan – the former Peterborough United, Leicester City and Notts County player, who later managed Langley and Burnham – says they’re desperate to get out of the complex and link up with the rest of the squad. The former Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace striker Stern John has taken over as manager and will run the rule over his players for the very first time, so Luke, Calvin and Kian will be keen to impress.
“That’s right, they’re in a beautiful country, lovely beaches all around them and the sun’s out, and they’re not able to go out and see it all,” said Alan last week.
“We’ve got family out there who have been going to see them and give them food. They’re in a self-catering apartment and have their own little swimming pool, and they can go out for a walk around the complex, but they’re not allowed off site.
“I talk to Luke every couple of days and know he’s keen to get out, it’s pretty daunting for them. At the moment they’re just kicking the ball around in the complex area but it will be good when they can get out and start practising with the team on a grass pitch.
“Every game is tough for Anguilla. In my son’s first game they lost 10-0. They’re the worst team in the Caribbean and one of the worst in the world. Only San Marino are ranked worse than they are.
“Their performances have been improving, but the new man who’s come in (John), he’s got to start from scratch now. A lot of the players are recommendations, so he’s not actually seen the players play himself. Kian is my cousin, he’s one of the players I’ve recommended because he’s been playing at a higher level than Luke and Calvin and he’s been holding his own. I got together all his legal documents to show he was eligible to play.”
“Success would be to win a game and to move off the bottom of the rankings,” said Alan. “They’ve never won a competitive game. It’s going to be a big task for the new manager, getting the 22 boys together and bringing in the seven or eight from abroad.”
Alan expects it will be tougher for the players from abroad to assimilate and prove their value to the new boss, having not played competitively due to lockdown for more than three months.
However, despite playing at step 5 of the non-league system they should be technically superior to the players already in Anguilla.
Alan added that if they impress in the Nations League qualifiers they could be scouted by teams in North America, who regular watch games in the Caribbean. This might be the players best hope of playing professionally, with Luke now 26.
“They haven’t played in three months so to go out there and play will be difficult,” said Alan.
“They were given a programme to follow, some running activities to keep them as fit as possible. Anguillans aren’t really in lockdown so it will be harder for them, but even with that, they’re probably better than most of the boys who are out there. Anguilla are the worst, or second worst ranked team in world football. That’s why they can come to England and pick players that are better than what they’ve got out there.
“You’ve only got a population of 15,000 and you’ve got 5,000 women, 5,000 children, 3-4,000 who are not from Anguilla, and then probably a couple of thousand who play cricket instead of football.”
Alan, who regrets having not had the chance to play for his country when he played professionally, added: “Yeah, there will be American team scouts out there watching.
“There are opportunities for players to be seen and move to league clubs, whether that’s in England or America, there’s definitely a chance.
“I would have loved to have done what they’re doing. I didn’t really think about it at the time and it was harder to do because there was no compensation to pay for it like they have now.
“It wasn’t something they did when I was a player because they weren’t ranked by FIFA at that time.”
When Anguillans were first encouraged to resettle in the UK, 90 percent of them put down roots in Slough, accounting for the high number of descendants from the area being eligible to play.
“Slough was the biggest industrial estate in the world at that time so that’s likely to be the reason,” ventures Alan. “
“They’ll get a small crowd watching their matches, but cricket is the number one sport out there and then basketball, because the country is closest to America. Football is still popular, but they’ve only got two proper football grounds, it’s difficult to imagine when we complain about the lack of facilities in the UK. Out there they just play on verges, on flattish ground.
“They have a league of 13 teams, but they haven’t all got their own grounds. They need to build some sort of youth structure and youth league.”
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