New boss is a football purist

Football special by MARCUS CRAWLEY HERTFORDSHIRE can now lay claim to three of our national football managers. And two of these live in Letchworth Garden City – Great Britain Deaf football manager Phillip Gardner and now the England Schools under-18 boss

Football special by MARCUS CRAWLEY

HERTFORDSHIRE can now lay claim to three of our national football managers.

And two of these live in Letchworth Garden City - Great Britain Deaf football manager Phillip Gardner and now the England Schools' under-18 boss Tony Martin.

Former Stevenage Boro boss Paul Fairclough, still based at St Albans, is also in charge of the England National Game XI, the top non-league side in the country.

His appointment represents just reward for the 56-year-old Martin, a respected figure in North Herts footballing circles.

Martin said: "In the two years in charge, I've the opportunity to promote my own ideas as to how the game should be played.

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"The administration back-up is in place and solid, so I just have to work on the technical side of things.

"It was my third attempt of going for the job and there are lots of quality people in the queue.

"Football has meant a lot to me and it's great that I was patient and finally got my chance."

He was interviewed and selected to be the team's assistant manager in 2004, a position which guarantees the top job after two years.

Martin took full charge recently and his first assignment was a coaching course at Keele University in Staffordshire involving 68 of the top youngsters in the country.

This coaching week was bankrolled by the FA, who run the sides at all other age groups in the country.

It also involved a delegation from China, comprising 17 players, four coaches and even five government officials.

They played the full Chinese under-18 side at Newcastle Town and only lost 1-0 to a penalty despite going down to 10 men.

A return trip to China is planned next Easter.

Martin said: "It was in the pipeline for a couple of years ago. It did not happen due to administration but it should be okay for April 2007."

The nine-day tour will take in matches in Shanghai and Beijing.

Trips in the past have included two visits to Valencia prior to the Home International tournaments.

Players are picked for this after regional trials followed by weekends at Lilleshall.

England are the reigning holders of this competition which also involves Scotland and the two Irelands.

Wales are not in the tournament due to the Welsh FA not supplying the necessary funds but Martin is still hopeful the two countries will meet in a 'friendly'.

Players are in the lower or upper sixth form at schools and colleges up and down the country and none are contracted to professional clubs.

Martin continued: "When we play against the Irish teams, we generally play against professionals and even some that have played in the early rounds of the European competitions."

England players have gone on to join League clubs such as Gillingham, Brighton, Bristol Rovers and Cheltenham.

"It give players the chance to impress they might not have otherwise," continued Martin.

"They're still pulling on a white shirt with the Three Lions on.

"They are very intelligent kids; very receptive and so very coachable of course."

Martin finds it hard to reconcile their attitude with that of the pampered glamour boys from the Premiership.

"I get sad when I see some things that go on at the top level. In my opinion, footballers get paid a lot of money nowadays, they don't earn a lot of money. There's a big difference.

"Yet even in local football, there are things that aren't right and it usually revolves around players chasing money."

Martin moved to Letchworth GC in 1995 having previously lived in Arlesey.

A teacher by profession since 1972, he now teaches at Wilbury Junior School in the town.

He managed the Herts Schools' under-18 team for 15 years in two spells and also ran the district primary schools' side.

His coaching career also took in spells at Pirton, Baldock and Stotfold.

This was after playing for Hitchin Town for the majority of his career after starting off in the West Ham youth ranks.

A keen golfer, he also plays cricket for Ickleford.

His ultimate aim is to finish his stewardship with a showpiece game at local club Stevenage Boro.

The Herts Schools' FA will host a game against the Republic of Ireland in March 2008 and Martin hopes it will be staged at Broadhall Way.

"I can see that as an ideal finale to my two years in charge. It would be an ideal location for lots and lots of reasons.

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