Three Lions, two Connors....and one World Cup

These two best friends will be cheering on England on Monday night as the Three Lions kick off their first match of Russia 2018.

But University of Sunderland students Connor Smith and Connor Wallace actually have a lot more in common than just a love of football.

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Aside from sharing the same name, the friends are both 21 and both currently studying Sports Coaching at the University.

And from the age of six, the two lads’ lives seem to have run in parallel:

  • They first met in the same class at Eppleton Primary School, aged just six
  • They both attended Hetton School together
  • Both then went on to study at Bede College in Sunderland
  • Both live in the same street
  • Both played for the same college and university football team
  • Both want to become PE teachers after graduation

The double-act has so much in common they have now joined forces to go into local schools to show pupils how they can improve their footballing skills. The lads have received a glowing report from Monkwearmouth Academy in Sunderland where they have been coaching students during recent months.

Connor Smith said: “We have been going into Monkwearmouth every Tuesday to advise and support the children in their PE lessons. It’s been brilliant fun and a great learning experience.”

Connor Wallace added: “We’re helping improve their skills and teamwork. The kids are amazing and it’s been a brilliant opportunity.”

Speaking about their ‘shared lives’, Connor Smith said: “We did actually get a break from each other when we first left school.

“I went to Eppleton School to get involved in teaching PE, while Connor Wallace started another course at university. But it wasn’t long before we were back together.”

John O’Leary, Senior Lecturer in Sports Science at the University, watched both Connors coach in one of their level 4 modules and so was confident in putting them in touch with Martin Johns, from Monkwearmouth Academy.

Mr O’Leary said: “It is one thing completing modules were you normally coach your peers but gaining real life weekly school based experience working under the guidance of higher level coaches/ teachers and seeing them interact with pupils is where real gains can be made.”

World Cup moments to remember

Gazza’s tears

 An entire nation cried alongside Paul Gascoigne in England’s semi-final against West Germany in 1990 when he cried after realising his yellow card for a foul on Thomas Berthold would rule him out of the final if the Three Lions went on to win

The hand of God

At the Mexico World Cup in 1986, at a time when tensions were running high between Argentina and England, the stage was set for a fiery encounter.

Following a frantic, bed-tempered first half in which both sides spurned chances, Maradona saw an opening a few minutes after the restart. A miss-hit clearance was heading toward earth and the hands of England goalkeeper Peter Shilton when the diminutive Argentine No. 10, already at full steam, jumped, punched and scored....the rest is history. 

Maradona’s dream goal.

Argentina striker Diego Maradona will forever be vilified for his ‘Hand of God’ goal in the team’s 2-1 quarter-final win over England in 1986. But if ever he needed to make up for it, he did so just four minutes later with a 60-yard, 10 second dash, past Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher (twice) and Terry Fenwick, before putting it past Peter Shilton, for what became known as the ‘Goal of the Century’. 

Hello Pele

A 17-year-old from Brazil named Pele burst onto the scene with the winner against Wales in the 1950 quarter-final and a match-winning hat-trick over France in the semi, before a decisive brace in the final against hosts Sweden. It was the first of his record three World Cup wins with follow-ups in 1962 and 1970.

Baggio nightmare

In 1994 both Italy and Brazil had been neck-and-neck during the tournament and all it was going to take was an individual error to separate the two sides during one of the closest finals to date. Step up Baggio, who for all his hard work to get that far was the cruellest of scapegoats to miss Italy’s fifth and decisive penalty. He didn’t just miss but belted it well over the crossbar.

Roger’s joy

Italia 90 was one of the classiest editions of the World Cup, and was definitely improved by the dance moves of Cameroonian legend Roger Milla. Prior to his joyous, finger-raised dance at the corner flag or in front of the fans, goal celebrations tended to be wild, unstructured affairs. But for Milla's four goals for Cameroon in the competition, he injected class and humour into his one-man tango rendition.

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