Former Bristol City Apprentice Luke Ballinger hopes to make history this weekend by becoming the first England Futsal Captain to lead the side to back-to-back victories.
After captaining his country to their first-ever competitive Futsal win in February Ballinger hopes to go one further this weekend when England entertain Israel in a double-header at thePoint4 in Hereford (one game this evening and one on Saturday evening).
Speaking ahead of the fixture, Luke said:
“We have been waiting for these two games for a long time. We played out of our skin against Cyprus and it was a great result for everyone involved because we had been promising a performance like that and at last we delivered.”
“Since that tournament, we have changed our training routine. Where we used to train once a month, Pete has now arranged more intensive training camps. We meet up at these camps for 3-4 days at a time and the longer duration of the camps really helps us to practice and develop all areas of our game. Hopefully we can demonstrate some of the fruits of our labour during the next two games.”
Luke started playing Futsal after leaving Bristol City in 2006 and was first spotted by former England Futsal Head Coach, Graeme Dell, when he was playing in the FA Futsal Cup in Sheffield.
He was called up to the England squad for a match against Turkey and has been in every squad since. Such was his influence on the team that when Sturgess took over from Dell, he made Luke England Captain.
Speaking on his promotion to Skipper, Ballinger added:
“It was a proud moment for me, to play for your country is a great achievement, but to be named Captain is the biggest honour I have had in all forms of the game and it is something I am very grateful for and something I will never forget.”
“These two games against Israel are a great chance for us to put into a real game situation everything that we have been working on in the training camps over the last few months.”
“Israel are a good side and we are going to need to be switched on from the first whistle to the last if we are going to win these games. I really believe we can win because I have seen some massive improvements in the squad over the last few months.”
“We are looking to build on our last performance and hopefully create a bit of history by winning back-to-back games.”
Ballinger is joined in the England squad by three other former Apprentices, Dean Thornton (Wycombe Wanderers), Haydn Eames (Stockport County) and Lee Jones (Wrexham).