Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
watch listen BBC Sport BBC Sport
Low graphics|Help
CHOOSE A SPORT
 
RELATED BBC SITES
Last Updated: Sunday, 30 April 2006, 20:34 GMT 21:34 UK
From Burslem to Dortmund
By Mark Mitchener

Chris Birchall
Four points could get us through the group
Chris Birchall
Chris Birchall is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that his World Cup dream is only six weeks away.

Birchall, 21, is one of the lesser-known British-based players who will be under the spotlight in June.

The Stafford-born midfielder plays for Port Vale, who have spent the majority of their history in England's lower divisions.

But, come June, he will swap the quiet surroundings of Burslem - one of the six towns that comprise Stoke-on-Trent - for Germany, where Trinidad and Tobago's World Cup adventure begins against Sweden in Dortmund.

They then face a much-anticipated game with England - from where they draw many of their players - five days later.

"It still feels bizarre but I can't wait," Birchall told BBC Sport.

"This time last year it was just about to start - as I made my debut in May and it has just roller-coastered from there.

"From when I started, it was just an experience to be there. I never thought we would get to the World Cup - it has been a dream."

Birchall qualifies for Trinidad and Tobago through his mother, who was born in Port of Spain - and he played a large part in the Soca Warriors' qualification, scoring a vital equaliser in the first leg of their play-off with Bahrain.

Although his domestic season with Port Vale looks set for a quiet mid-table finish, there will be no let-up for the squad, whose European-based players will be clocking up plenty of air miles before the tournament starts.

"I want to play well for Vale in the last three games and get a good send-off from the gaffer and the fans," Birchall explained.

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO SCHEDULE
Trinidad and Tobago's team
10 June: v Sweden (Dortmund, 1700 BST)
15 June: v England (Nuremberg, 1700 BST)
20 June: v Paraguay (Kaiserslautern, 2000 BST)
"But my season here ends on 6 May, then we will be flying straight out as we meet up in 8 May in Trinidad, and we have a game against Peru on 10 May.

"It's a busy schedule as we go back to Trinidad, then back to England for a camp, then to Austria for a camp and then on to Germany.

"It's a massive five weeks but the coach Leo Beenhakker knows what he's doing as he has managed some of the top teams in the world and he will get us ready in the right frame of mind."

Although Birchall is the first white player to have represented the islands for 60 years, he is not alone in flying the flag for England's lower divisions in Beenhakker's provisional 24-man squad, which was announced on 13 April.

"We all get on well. I keep in contact with Ian Cox and Brent Sancho - they're good pals who are doing well at the moment at Gillingham," he said.

"Also, Stern John is scoring goals at Coventry, Kenwyne Jones has come on at Southampton and we're all getting games. Touch wood, none of us will get injured before the end of the season.

"It was a relief for those of us that play in England when the squad was named, as it hasn't really changed - he hasn't brought in any new players, apart from Tony Rougier who used to play here at Vale."

Beenhakker's side will gain more attention than many of the other first-timers in the World Cup, after being drawn in England's group.

But either side of that eagerly-awaited meeting, they will also face Sweden and Paraguay - and Birchall is already plotting his country's progress.

"My ambitions are to play the best I can, and hopefully get through the group," he stated.

Stern John celebrates after Trinidad qualify
Stern John has scored 10 goals for Coventry this season
"It will be close - you don't get teams thrashing each other 7-0 or 8-0 at the World Cup any more.

"Hopefully we will give a good account of ourselves, but if we have a good game against Sweden, then who knows?

"Even if we lose against England, it will all depend on the last game against Paraguay, as four points could get you through the group."

Birchall is also pleased to have acquired a degree of respect from his Vale team-mates since his international career began.

"I used to get plenty of stick from the lads when I first went over," he added. "They would say 'Why are you going over? You'll never qualify!'

"But to be fair, they have been great, they have wished me all the best and are now asking me for tickets all the time!"

Trinidad is the smallest country to reach the 2006 finals - boasting a population of just 1.3 million - but expect celebrations in Burslem if they can cause the upset they seek.



SEE ALSO
Trinidad announce World Cup squad
13 Apr 06 |  World Cup 2006
Cox cautious on World Cup dreams
24 Dec 05 |  World Cup 2006
Lawrence eyes England challenge
13 Dec 05 |  Wrexham
Trinidad & Tobago
30 Nov 05 |  Team guides
Country profile: Trinidad and Tobago
12 Apr 06 |  Country profiles


RELATED BBC LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

BBC PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
Daily and weekly e-mails | Mobiles | Desktop Tools | News Feeds | Interactive Television | Downloads
Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability Sport | Olympics 2012 | Sport Relief | Other Sport...

Help | Privacy & Cookies Policy | News sources | About the BBC | Contact us