Saudi giants Al-Ittihad to take on English minnows Atherton Collieries in friendly

The eight-time champions of Saudi Arabia and two-time Asian champions will take to the field at the 2,500-capacity Alder House as part of their tour of the north-west of England. (Photo: Atherton Collieries)
Updated 24 July 2019

Saudi giants Al-Ittihad to take on English minnows Atherton Collieries in friendly

  • Al-Ittihad have been based in the town of Bolton where they have played friendlies against Bolton Wanderers, Leeds United and Bury
  • Atherton Collieries play in the seventh tier of English football

LONDON: Saudi Arabian giants Al-Ittihad are in unchartered territory on Wednesday night as they take on English non-league side Atherton Collieries, who play in the seventh tier of the football pyramid in England.
The eight-time champions of Saudi Arabia and two-time Asian champions will take to the field at the 2,500-capacity Alder House as part of their tour of the north-west of England.
Al-Ittihad have been based in the town of Bolton where they have played friendlies against local side Bolton Wanderers as well as Leeds United and Bury. New West Bromwich Albion boss Slaven Bilic managed the club in the last 12 months.
It is far removed from their 62,000-capacity home at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, but the Saudi club wanted to play one more match before returning to the Kingdom, according to a BBC report.
The report also highlighted the gulf in social media following between the two clubs, with the Jeddah giants boasting 3.7 million Twitter followers compared to ACFC’s more modest 7,300.
Club official Carl McGuire told Arab News: "The interest in our club has been unprecedented, this is the first time I think the BBC have written about us in our more than 100-year history.
“Feedback from the local community and football family has been overwhelming.
“We are very honored that a club that is run by volunteers is to host such a prestigious club. We have made every effort to be as welcoming as possible.
“We don’t know what crowd to anticipate at all, Al-Ittihad supporters making the trip here will be able to see their heroes closer than ever. Our junior teams will be leading out the teams, a day they and their families will never forget.
“It is a day that will go down in our history,” he added.
“Something like this doesn’t come around often,” ACFC secretary Emil Anderson told BBC Sport.
“It’s like the unknown for us and it will probably be the unknown for them as well. It’s going to be a memorable night for the club.”
It has been a month of interesting friendlies in England, with Marlow Town hosting the Kuwait national team in a friendly and third-tier Accrington Stanley beating nine-time French champions and 1993 European champions Marseille.


Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

Updated 17 November 2019

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

  • World Cup semifinalists ‘still have room for improvement as they chase first major title since 1966’

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”