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Archive - Friday, 6 February 2004
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Rejected Rachel ready for Northern Ireland bow
A Chester-le-Street teenager is to make her international debut for Northern Ireland after being denied the chance to prove to herself for England.
Fifteen-year-old Rachel Furness has impressed at weekly coaching sessions in Belfast which will culminate in an Easter tournament when the left-sided midfielder will play for Northern Ireland under-17s.
Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and USA will all be competing, but it's the match against England that the Chester-le-Street Town youngster is looking forward to most after requests for a trial with her home country fell on deaf ears.
After recognising she possessed international quality, last October Chester-le-Street Town director of coaching, Bill Godward recommended Rachel to the English FA however, their response was less than warm as Rachel was told that because she does not attend a school of excellence or an academy she could not attend England trials.
Unperturbed, Godward, well aware Rachel had a Northern Irish grandparent, contacted the Northern Ireland FA and they invited her for trials, which led to the midfielder becoming Chester-le-Street's second international in four years.
Cestrians' Anna Gordon represented England four years ago, but Rachel will be wearing the green of her grandfather's country and is keen to do him proud, showing England what they're missing in the process.
"He would've been really proud," said Godward. "I knew her grandfather Pat very well and he'd have been very pleased. He used to ferry her to games all the time and we've said to her that now England has gone, she should do it for her granddad.
"The only way the England FA are going to see her capabilities will be in matches.
"She'll be playing alongside the best against the best.
"We've put her on a platform and, with good players alongside her, she'll be able to say to England, 'this is what you're missing'."
Despite being selected for Northern Ireland, being overlooked for England has left a bitter taste in the mouth for Godward who had been hoping to provide England with his sixth international since getting involved in the woman's game 30 years ago.
"We doesn't agree with these rules which state players must be with an academy or school of excellence to play for England," said Godward.
"Two days after this selection was announced the English FA were in touch with us asking for a fixture list so they could assess her. We think this is a face-saving effort by the FA and Rachel has decided to stay with the Northern Ireland squad.
"Chester-le-Street believe this to be a complete turn around by the English FA and hope the move opens the door a little for other players that are not in training camps."
Unfortunately, the travelling to Belfast is becoming a strain and Rachel would welcome any kind of financial assistance to help with the trips across to Belfast.
EasyJet have already helped out and Belfast University say they would like to raise funds for Rachel, while Chester-le-Street's sponsor, New Life Hypnosis, has been generous in their financial assistance.