2014 Review: #2 John Irving

2014 REVIEW - IrvingIn 2014, New Zealand club side Auckland City surprised everyone by finishing third place in the FIFA Club World Cup and English defender John Irving was a key part of their success.

Irving joined the Everton academy at the age of seven and was a stalwart of the Everton youth sides throughout his time at the club, captaining every age group he featured for.

However, despite spending more than fourteen years with the club and twice being named Reserve Player of the Year, he was released from the side in 2009, without making a senior appearance.

Then, at the age of 21, Irving joined Welsh Premier League side Bala Town.

The defender became a crucial member of the squad and was part of the side which qualified for European football for the first in the club’s history in the 2012/13 season.

However, before he had the chance to get his first taste of continental football, Irving took the bold step of moving across the world to further his football career, as he joined New Zealand Premiership side Auckland City.

He was yet again a regular and quickly settled into his new side. Last year saw the culmination of several significant achievements.

First, after missing just two league games all year, Irving helped his side to the ASB Premiership, defeating Team Wellington 1-0 in the playoff final.

Then, after achieving league success, the former Everton defender played in all seven matches as his side won the OFC Champions League, defeating Vanuatu domestic side Amicale 3-2 on aggregate in the final.

Irving, now 25, didn’t stop there as he soon added the OFC President’s Cup title to his growing list of achievements.

However, his best success came arguably in a tournament which he did not even win. Having won the OFC Champions League, Auckland City represented the Oceania Football Confederation in the annual FIFA show-piece, the Club World Cup.

In the first round, Irving scored from 12 yards as Auckland defeated host side Moghreb Tétouan on penalties.

Then, in the next round the defender scored the only goal of the game as his side defeated African champions ES Sétif 1-0 in the quarter-finals.

Although Auckland would go on to lose in the semi-finals to South American side San Lorenzo, Auckland finished on a high as they defeated Cruz Azul on penalties in the 3rd/4th playoff match.

2014 was a superb year for John Irving. Three trophies and a very impressive bronze medal made it a year he will never forget.

This year, the Englishman will try and do it all again, with Auckland looking good to retain their Premiership title.




English in action: FIFA Club World Cup

Auckland City, with four Englishmen in their ranks, stunned football fans across the globe as they finished third in the FIFA Club World Cup.

The tournament, which sees the winner of each continent’s premier competition take on each other, was held in Morocco from the 10th to the 20th December.

Auckland qualified as winners of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Champions League and were involved in the first match of the tournament as they took on the host country’s entrant Moghreb Tétouan. The winner would qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament.

The match went all the way to penalties and it was the New Zealand side who held their nerve, winning 4-3 on spot-kicks. Both Englishmen who featured, John Irving and Darren White, were successful converting from the spot. See the highlights here.

In the next round, Auckland were pitted against Africa’s champions, Algerian side ES Sétif.

In another tight encounter, it was Irving who was the hero, with his goal in the 52nd minute securing a 1-0 win, and passage to the semi finals. Darren White also featured as a late substitute. See the goal here.

San Lorenzo were next up for Auckland, and they stood between them and a place in the final against Real Madrid.

The South American champions were a significant jump in quality compared to the two sides Oceania’s champions had already defeated but they battled well, taking the game to extra time following a 1-1 draw in regulation time.

However, the professional side were to be a step too far for Auckland, as San Lorenzo secured a 2-1 victory with a goal in the first half of extra time. Again, Irving started and Sam Burfoot also featured for the first time. See the highlights here.

Despite the loss, there was still one more game for Auckland to play, as they took on North America’s top club Cruz Azul in the 3/4 playoff.

The Mexican side has just been defeated by Real Madrid 4-0 in the semi-finals so were looking to end their tournament on a high.

However, Irving, White, Burfoot and co. made sure it would be them who would go home happiest as a 4-2 win in their second penalty shoot-out of the tournament secured them third place after a 1-1 draw in normal time. See the highlights here.

English goalkeeper Louie Caunter was on the bench for all the games.

For a semi-professional side, Auckland did themselves and the Oceania confederation proud, beating side’s with vastly superior budgets and reputations.

This year was the sixth time Auckland had ever played in the FIFA Club World Cup and their third place finish was by far their best ever result.





English in action: OFC President’s Cup

Last week, Auckland City and their three Englishmen took part in the inaugural OFC President’s Cup.

The competition included the current OFC Champions League holders, Auckland, as well as the OFC Champions League runners-up and four additional sides who were all invited to the tournament.

All matches in the competition were to be held at the Trusts Arena in Auckland.

Monday 17th November: Auckland City 4-0 Singapore U23 (Group A match)
Against a youthful Singapore side, Auckland strolled to a comfortable win. They scored a couple of goals in each half being helped by the dismissal of Ali Hudzaifi, who was sent off for the visitors in the 20th minute.

English defender John Irving started the match and played the entire game. Compatriot Sam Burfoot played 73 minutes before being replaced and English forward Darren White came on off the bench for the final thirteen minutes of the match.

Friday 21st November: Auckland City 9-0 Bodden Town (Group A match)
Four days later, Auckland took on Cayman Islands side Bodden Town in a largely one-sided affair.

Irving and Burfoot started once again, with White coming on as a first half substitute. Incredibly, at half time it was just 2-0 but the superior fitness of the home side showed in the second 45, with an additional seven goals.

Both White and Burfoot were on the score sheet, they scored the second and eighth goals respectively.

Sunday 23rd November: Auckland City 2-1 Amicale (Final)
Having cruised their way through the group stages, Auckland made the final against group B winners Amicale, who had also won both of their games so far. The match was a repeat of the OFC Champions League final back in May, which the New Zealand side won 3-2 on aggregate over two legs.

This game saw Irving start once again with White handed his first start of the competition. Burfoot missed out on the game through injury.

Amicale took a surprise lead four minutes before half time and held onto their lead for over twenty minutes before Argentine forward Emiliano Tade equalised.

The momentum was then all with the hosts and they took the lead for the first time in the match, with a goal eleven minutes from time scored by Ryan de Vries.

Auckland held onto the lead to win the very first OFC President’s Cup. Both White and Irving played the full ninety.

English in action: 12th November

There were three games yesterday, in three different continents, which featured Englishmen.

New Zealand: Auckland City 3-0 Wanderers SC (ASB Premiership)

Irving (right) in action for Auckland last year in the Club World Cup.

Top played bottom in New Zealand as high-flying Auckland City hosted the struggling Wanderers SC in New Zealand’s top tier.

Auckland made it four wins from four in the league with a comfortable 3-0 win, which condemned Wanderers to a third straight defeat. They were helped to victory with the aid of two English expats, John Irving and Sam Burfoot.

Former Everton academy defender Irving and 20-year-old midfielder Burfoot both played the full ninety minutes as their side continues to dominate in New Zealand. The pair are both into their second seasons at Auckland and enjoyed league and continental success last season.

India: Kerala Blasters 0-0 Mumbai City (Indian Super League)

James in action yesterday
James in action yesterday

Another day, another match in the Indian Super League. This time it was Kerala Blasters’ turn as they hosted Peter Reid’s Mumbai City.

Kerala are managed by David James, who is also registered to play for the Blasters, and has missed just one game in the tournament so far. The 44-year-old rolled back the years to keep a clean sheet, no mean feat considering Mumbai’s star striker, Nicolas Anelka, was playing.

It was a second consecutive goalless draw for the Blasters and a third consecutive clean sheet, something the former England international can certainly be proud of. They remain 6th in the league table.

Slovakia: Zlaté Moravce 1-3 Trenčín (Slovak Cup)

Lawrence (right) in action earlier this year
Lawrence (right) in action earlier this year

In one of the more unusual career paths, English midfielder James Lawrence currently plays for Slovakian Super Liga side FK AS Trenčín, having joined them this summer after five years in Holland with Ajax, Sparta Rotterdam and RKC Waalwijk.

A fairly regular starter in his first season of senior football, Lawrence was in the starting line-up as 2nd place Trenčín travelled to 10th place Zlaté Moravce for a Slovak Cup last 16 match.

The 22-year-old played the entire match as his side eased to a 3-1 win over Zlaté to book their place in the quarter finals.

At the moment, it looks like tomorrow’s update will be fairly short, with it looking likely that no there are expatriates who have a match today.