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Story posted: Monday, 30th January 2006

England go Futsal crazy
Story courtesy of Peter Lansley - Times Online
Mickey Lyons

Mickey Lyons

Mickey Lyons - these days of Gresley Rovers, then of Derby County and the FA National School at Lilleshall - was bedazzled by the back-heeled keep-ups that Ronaldinho was producing before England Under-17 kicked off against Brazil.
Even having faced the prodigy, however, Lyons is convinced that Joe Cole, his class-mate in the mid-1990s, remains the most talented footballer with whom he has shared a pitch.

"Brazil went on to win the World Youth Championship shortly after beating us 4-2," Lyons said. "Ronaldinho was outstanding — even in the warm-up. I was in the same year as Alan Smith, though he left after a few weeks, and Scott Parker. Michael Owen and Wes Brown were in the group above but we were also training with Joe Cole, from the year below. With what he could do with a ball, he made even more of an impression on me than Ronaldinho. Josť Mourinho's coached it out of him a bit now but, technically, he was the most gifted player I've ever seen."

Lyons's slight frame might have cost him a living in the professional game but he has returned to Lilleshall to pick up his international career. With enough ball control and speed of movement to leave his marker light-headed, the midfield player offered a masterclass in Futsal, a form of five-a-side recognised by Fifa, as England prepared for forthcoming friendlies with Finland.

"Having focused on being a professional footballer throughout my teens, it was disappointing to realise I wasn't going to make it," he said. "But my football got me a scholarship to Loughborough University, I enjoy my job (as a sales and marketing executive with a careers company) and now coming back into an international squad like this is great."

Futsal is five-a-side without limits. The ball is small and heavy, so it doesn't fly away, the game is almost non-contact and there are no boards, just kick-ins within four seconds. Goalkeepers come dashing out to score goals as the action blurs along over 60 minutes of real time.

There is an international structure. The winners of the annual FA National Futsal finals, held in Sheffield in July, qualify for the Uefa Futsal Cup. "So for the Dog and Duck," Graeme Dell, the FA's national Futsal coach, said, "you can qualify from your regional event, win the nationals and end up playing in Spain, where teams pay their professionals £15,000 a week and attract 8,000 lock-out crowds."

At international level, England are 66th in the world and seeking their first win. "We're 20 years behind the other nations but we're learning fast," Dell said. This is not Masters five-a-side for heroes with beer guts. The England players are given FA fitness programmes and they need them. "Players will be working at 90 per cent of their maximum heart-rate for 80 per cent of their time on court," Dell said. It should help future generations of children to improve technique. "The FA have got a concern with trying to produce more technically able players," Dermot Collins, the FA's national development manager, said. "Trevor Brooking (the director of football development) has reassessed the coaching curriculum we give to kids and there's a feeling Futsal can contribute."

England play two games against Finland at Bisham Abbey on February 7 and 8. Details can be found at:
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  Team P GD Pts
1 Morpeth Town 10 17 25
2 Marske United 11 7 19
3 Gresley 12 -6 19
4 Ossett United 11 7 18
5 Brighouse Town 11 6 18
6 Pontefract Collieries 11 4 18
7 Lincoln United 12 3 18
8 Stamford AFC 11 5 17
9 Tadcaster Albion 11 2 16
10 Belper Town 11 -1 16
11 Frickley Athletic 10 -5 15

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Sat, 20th Oct 2018, 3.00pm (Away)
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