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Footballers from the Caribbean island of Montserrat use the training facilities at Stamford AFC's Zeeco Stadium

Footballers from a small Caribbean island have been using the facilities at Stamford AFC to help with their preparations for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Montserrat face clashes against Antigua and El Salvador this month in the first matches of their qualifying campaign.

With the majority of their squad based in England, they approached the Daniels with a view to training at the Northern Premier League club last weekend.

Nottingham Forest striker Lyle Taylor (left), pictured playing for Charlton Athletic, is captain of Montserrat.
Nottingham Forest striker Lyle Taylor (left), pictured playing for Charlton Athletic, is captain of Montserrat.

Stamford director Guy Walton explained: "The Montserrat team manager - Willie Donachie - visited the Zeeco Stadium to assess our training facilities and we were delighted to host his squad preparing for their forthcoming fixtures.

"John Burrows - our Covid-19 officer - spent time to ensure we hosted the session meeting all the necessary 'elite sport' protocols.

"Willie has played and coached at the top level of the game so it was a great opportunity to take some notes for coaching reference."

Donachie is a former international footballer himself, having made more than 30 appearances for Scotland during the seventies.

He enjoyed a long professional playing career that included spells with Manchester City - where he made more than 350 first team appearances - Norwich, Burnley and Oldham as well as two stints with Portland Timbers in America.

The 69-year-old has been part of management and coaching teams at Oldham, Everton, Manchester City, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich and Millwall before taking over the Montserrat helm in 2018.

He now combines that with a youth coaching role at League One side Accrington Stanley and was full of praise about his visit to the Zeeco Stadium.

Donachie said: "It was great for us and Stamford were so hospitable.

"The facilities were unbelievable and are better than some of the professional clubs that I visit.

"They are great people at the club and really looked after us. It helped us out because we needed somewhere central to train because our players are dotted all over the country.

"It was perfect for us and the facilities were even better than I thought they would be."

Donachie and his Montserrat charges will now be jetting out to the Dutch Caribbean island of CuraƧao later this month to play the first of their World Cup qualifying matches.

Brandon Comley (right) is now with Bolton Wanderers.
Brandon Comley (right) is now with Bolton Wanderers.

They have been drawn in a group alongside El Salvador, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Montserrat and the US Virgin Islands.

The winners of that group will then progress to the next stage of the Concacaf qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup that is being held in Qatar.

Their opening match against Antigua and Barbuda pitches Donachie against the country which actually recommended him to Montserrat following a previous coaching spell in the Caribbean.

He explained: "Montserrat were looking for a new coach and the people in Antigua recommended me so I met their president.

"We got on well and it's been great so far. Although we have got a few full-time players, most of ours are part-time who play in the non-league in England.

"We have got such character and unity though in our squad as a group and we have done really well."

Donachie's appointment in 2018 was followed by Montserrat playing their first international match for nearly two years when they went down to a narrow 2-1 defeat against El Salvador in the Concacaf Nations League qualifiers.

They then beat Belize a month later with striker Spencer Weir-Daley scoring a stunning goal to secure a 1-0 victory.

That was followed by wins against Aruba and the Cayman Islands to take them into the next stage of the competition.

They gained wins over the Dominican Republic and St Lucia while sharing the spoils with both countries in the return fixtures.

However, two defeats against El Salvador then saw the Central Americans progress to the next stage.

But, having gone so close to qualifying, showed a huge improvement for Montserrat who were among the lowest teams in the FIFA world rankings at the start of 2000.

Spencer Weir-Daley. (44827687)
Spencer Weir-Daley. (44827687)

Despite a country whose population is less than 6,000, their rise to prominence has seen Nottingham Forest striker Lyle Taylor take the captain's armband while Brandon Comley plays professionally for Bolton Wanderers.

A number of players are with National League clubs while Weir Daley - who is currently at Stamford's South East Division neighbours Spalding United after being dual registered with Peterborough Sports - played under current Daniels boss Graham Drury at Boston United.

It was Weir-Daley who recommended the Daniels' base for training and Donachie is now relishing the challenges ahead which will also see the Emerald Boys travel to Florida in June to take part in the qualifiers for the Gold Cup - the Concacaf equivalent of the European Championships.

He continued: "The games against Antigua and El Salvador are massive matches against two very strong teams who have full-time professional leagues in their countries.

"We have a really strong group though and they are really proud of playing for their country which goes a long way.

"They love representing their country and it's been really enjoyable for me because of their togetherness.

"We have already surpassed all my expectations when I first took the job, but the players keep surprising me in how well they do by holding their own and beating countries with millions of people living in them.

"This is an unbelievable opportunity and we can go and play like it's an FA Cup game with a sense of freedom. We will give it everything we have got and see what happens."

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