BANGOR — Oliver Pannell said he intended to tell his players at the River City Athletics-sponsored Wolverhampton Wanderers identification soccer clinic to excuse him for checking his cell phone every 20 minutes Wednesday afternoon.
That’s when England was playing Croatia in its World Cup semifinal in Russia and Pannell is from Nottingham, England, and coaches at the Wolverhampton soccer academy in England.
Pannell was running the four-day clinic for youngsters who were invited to the clinic.
“I was nervous. My family and friends back in England said the atmosphere over there is unbelievable. It’s buzzing. Everything seemed to be going our way. We may not get a chance at this again. Chances like this come around once in a blue moon. I hope to see England win a World Cup in my lifetime,” said the 23-year-old Pannell, a former goalkeeper at NCAA Division II Mars Hill University in North Carolina and Clayton State University in Georgia.
Unfortunately for Pannell, he will have to wait for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as Croatia beat England 2-1 in extra time.
The United States failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986, but Pannell said the future is bright for American soccer.
And he said the failure to make the World Cup could turn out to be a positive.
“With the resources America has and the number of players, there’s no reason not to make the World Cup. They have very good facilities. They need some stability with the coach. If they get the right coach, they should have no problem going forward,” he said.
Jurgen Klinsmann was fired after successive qualifying round losses to Mexico and Costa Rica and replaced by Bruce Arena, who resigned after failing to lead the United States to a berth in the World Cup.
A new coach has not been hired yet.
Pannell said hiring a young coach from America could be the way to go as it is in England where 47-year-old Englishman Gareth Southgate has guided them to the semifinals.
“England tried foreign managers for a while. (Southgate) worked with our Under-21s. He knows our system. He knows the FA (Football Association) inside and out. Our younger players are comfortable with him and that has proven to help. You don’t need the biggest names. “You need someone with the right views about soccer and how the system should be,” Pannell said.
Pannell said U.S. Soccer will need to to take a long, hard look at its organization and what went wrong.
“(A wake-up call) probably was needed and it should only be a positive for the future. It’s disappointing to me to see these kids not have a team to cheer for in this World Cup. But they are still watching it, which is great to see,” he said. “Soccer is getting better here, and I think there is a lot of potential, but I don’t think things are being done right at the top, whether that’s through what the kids are being taught … if there is some sort of curriculum coming from the coaches. That might have to be looked at. Like I said, there’s potential but it has to be used in the right way.
“There’s only exciting times to come for the U.S. in soccer in general,” he added while noting that having the World Cup come to the United States, as well as Canada and Mexico, in 2026 is a huge development for the U.S.
“I hope I’m here for that,” he said.
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