THEY used to say that if a manager required a sturdy defender worth his salt, all he had to do was whistle down a Yorkshire mine shaft and one would arrive in the next cage.
The pit winders may have sadly gone, but the Broad Acres still possesses a reservoir of international-class defensive talent at the nation’s behest.
A rich seam, given that while two got the nod to start from Gareth Southgate on England’s Yorkshire return last night, two others remained on call.
Barnsley’s John Stones and Sheffield’s Harry Maguire, who both hail from the once celebrated region of coal in South Yorkshire, stepped out from the off in God’s County, watched on by two Steel City natives in Kyle Walker and Gary Cahill.
Further forward, the presence of a Bradford-born Fabian Delph, another Sheffielder in Jamie Vardy and a Doncastrian in Danny Rose in the starting line-up provided an unmistakably local flavour.
In the event, the two lads at the back in Maguire and Stones were not overly extended by the visitors, but the sight of their pleasing-on-the-eye customary comfort in possession was a reassuring constant.
For Maguire, a win bonus was almost pocketed by virtue of a second-half header which was cleared off the line.
Further forward, Rose, reenergised and in a good place again after his vicissitudes, looked thoroughly at home at the venue where his footballing journey started out.
Delph also drew nourishment from familiar territory too, dovetailing tidily with Rose down the left flank, although the sight of the pair strutting their stuff at LS11 would have provided Leeds United supporters present with an inescapable feeling of ‘if only’.
Elland Road may have been bedecked in the flags of St George ahead of kick-off, but a White Rose ensign or three would not have been out of place.
For the home Yorkshire quintet on starting duty, it was about business and not sentiment and providing a nudge to the gaffer ahead of the main event in Russia.Leon Wobschall
In the event, a brief chant of ‘Yorkshire, Yorkshire’ shortly after kick-off had to suffice followed by a stirring chorus of Football’s Coming Home, which became prolific in number throughout a vibrant evening.
It was a sweet rewind to England’s successful roadshow days of yore, which provided colour and vivacity to the Three Lions landscape.
A super atmosphere, albeit with the odd annoying vuvuzela, showed just what England have missed in their staid residence at Wembley.
On last night’s evidence, getting on the road again will reinvigourate England’s support, with flags from the likes of Leyton Orient, Aston Villa, Preston and Newcastle United, alongside those from Yorkshire clubs.
For the home Yorkshire quintet on starting duty, it was about business and not sentiment and providing a nudge to the gaffer ahead of the main event in Russia.
Job done, in the main and all the players looked like they enjoyed it.
An international affair it may be, but local partisanship was soon in evidence with a few jeers aimed in the direction of Manchester United duo Phil Jones and Marcus Rashford, only for a sumptuous strike from the latter to emphatically take the sting out of that in front of the Gelderd End.
It was a goal to light up any occasion and a move constructed in Yorkshire involving Delph and Maguire almost ended in Vardy adding a second, only for Keylor Navas to block.
It proved a fun occasion and fitting send-off, even if a second goal stubbornly refused to arrive until Danny Welbeck’s 75th-minute intervention. To Russia, we’re on our way.