Steve Cummings and his Gibraltar U19’s suffered badly in their U19 qualifying campaign this month, conceding 43 goals in three matches after today’s 16-1 defeat against Switzerland.
The team, which admittedly was not helped by having five of their eligible players called up to the U21 side for their international matches, suffered 14-0 and 13-0 defeats against Austria and Republic of Ireland in their first two games, and notably by the time the game vs Switzerland came about, Gib only had four substitutes available for the game, despite setting off for Austria with a 19-man squad. Craig Galliano’s penalty was the only positive note in the final match, although by then that was to make the score 5-1.
The results however will no doubt be of concern to GFA officials, especially considering the last U19 qualifying campaign saw 18 goals conceded in 3 matches, and 19 in the tournament before that – the total of 43 this time out is alarming, as are some of the other stats from the three games*:
130 – shots conceded (1 shot every 2 minutes, 4 seconds)
69 – shots on target conceded (1 shot every 3 minutes, 54 seconds)
6 minutes, 16 seconds – minutes and seconds per goal conceded
7 – shots taken (1 shot every 38 minutes, 34 seconds)
3 – shots on target (1 shot on target every 90 minutes)
Naturally, the general reaction within local footballing circles has not been positive, and the recent trip to Taiwan for the Development Tournament, where Gib beat Hong Kong and narrowly lost to Myanmar and the host nation Chinese Taipei, has not provided the momentum perhaps hoped for. For Cummings, his job may be under threat given there has been a sharp downturn in the performances of the team in such a short space of time. For the players, who in truth will have not been able to do much about these performances, this will be a very steep learning curve for them – the job for the clubs and families of these players now is to ensure the players aren’t too adversely affected by the results and that it doesn’t stunt their development too much.
The only respite going forward for Gib is that this is the last campaign at U19 level in this format, with the next qualifiers taking on a Nations League set-up. Gib will therefore play U19 teams more at their level in future campaigns which hopefully will lead to a more balanced playing field. Hopefully this month’s disastrous campaign can be used as a springboard to work on improving the U19 team (and other youth teams) going forward both on and off the pitch – from how they play when in a game to ensuring they are still developing while at university in UK by ensuring they get places at proper clubs, and not just uni teams, where the standard is basically Sunday League (the university issue is a major problem for Gib at this level, but is something to discuss in a different article) and much more – especially given in a few years a lot of these youngsters will be potentially making the senior side.
*All stats courtesy of UEFA.com.