THE BATTLE is on tonight with World Cup qualification on the line, but spare a thought for the proud Welshman whose job it is to ensure it is the English who are victorious in Cardiff.
That’s exactly the equation for Blackwood’s Lee Kendall, who is the goalkeeping coach for the England Women’s team, having taken up the role in January.
Kendall, who was a mainstay in the Welsh Premier League as a player, is fondly associated around these parts as the son of former County goalkeeper Mark Kendall, the former Tottenham, Wolves and Ironsides goalkeeper who sadly died in 2008.
Mark made almost 300 appearances for Newport County between 1980 to 1986 and his son Lee has followed suit by making the gloves his life, having embarked on a full-time coaching career.
He previously worked with Wales U21s and with the first team at Bristol City, but Kendall is now a friendly face in enemy territory for Wales as they ready themselves for their must win clash against England, managed by Mark Sampson, another exile from this side of the Severn Bridge.
And having returned to live in Blackwood with his young family, Kendall admits it’s a true clash between the professional and personal for him tonight.
“I guess I’m torn between my Welsh heritage and my job, but of course, I will be supporting England because we desperately want to get to the World Cup,” he explained.
“It’s a great opportunity for me, working within the set-up of the FA and so far I’ve really enjoyed the experience.
“I was happy with Bristol City and I enjoyed my time working with the Welsh U21s, but the chance to join a national set-up was just too good to turn down.”
England require only a point from tonight’s clash at the Cardiff City Stadium to book their spot in the World Cup, but Kendall admits his ideal would be to see Wales also advancing to the next stage.
“It would be lovely if England win the group but Wales still advance through the play-offs as one of the best runners-up,” Kendall confirmed.
And the former Rhyl goalkeeper admits he feels like it is an absolute boom time for women’s football, with the game enjoying unprecedented levels of coverage and crowd numbers up hugely.
“We are expecting a record crowd tonight and there is no doubt interest in the game is growing and growing, some of these games attract fantastic crowds now,” he said.
“We are giving more and more young women the opportunity to reach their potential in football and that’s a great feeling, creating more pathways to professional football is part of our remit as coaches.
“And qualifying for the World Cup will only help to grow the game further. That’s why hopefully England and Wales both qualify, but it’s why we are hoping to get the job done tonight.”