Spalding striker's starring role in World Cup squad
Spalding United striker Spencer Weir-Daley is hoping to help fire one of the world’s footballing minnows on their way to glory.
Weir-Daley is part of the squad of Montserrat – a small Caribbean island with a population of less than 6,000 – that starts its World Cup campaign this month.
The Emerald Boys face clashes against Antigua and El Salvador in the first matches of their qualifying campaign.
And Weir-Daley – who played for the Tulips last season while dual registered with Peterborough Sports – is hoping that Montserrat can continue their rise up the FIFA world rankings with another impressive performance in their next outing.
They were among the lowest teams in the FIFA world rankings at the start of 2000 but have transformed their fortunes following a recruitment drive, mainly through England’s non-league scene.
And Weir-Daley feels that being labelled underdogs acts as an inspiration to his Montserrat team-mates.
Speaking on the Forever Forest podcast, he said: “Montserrat were ranked the worst team in the world in around 2005 and were getting beaten by ridiculous amounts but we now have a new squad and the whole narrative has changed. We have been causing some big shocks.
“We know that we are all from the same background even if the majority of the team has grown up in England and that is a special thing because our team spirit is so strong.
“There is a massive camaraderie and I think that is what has carried us through.
“The banter is ruthless at times, but there is such a determination and togetherness because we are the underdogs to everybody and that’s what keeps us striving.”
Weir-Daley scored his first international goal in the 1-0 victory over Belize in the Concacaf Nations League qualifier in 2018.
His stunning strike went viral online and he has since followed it with goals for the Emerald Boys against both Aruba and St Lucia.
He commented: “The Belize goal was probably the best I have ever scored and it was a nice feeling, but we had worked so hard in that game.
“It made history to beat a country as big as Belize because a lot of people don’t realise that the population of Montserrat is less than 6,000 on the whole island.
“It’s one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean and we are now beating countries like Belize and the Dominican Republic who have got populations of millions.
“It’s a massive achievement so, for me to score that first international goal, was the best feeling ever.”
Weir-Daley qualifies to play for Montserrat as his grandad originated from the Caribbean island before moving to England in the sixties.
He explained: “I have always been aware of it because I am big on my heritage and I was always very clued up on where my family are from.
“I never really gave the football side a thought. My nan was from Belfast and she was always on my case to put my name forward for Northern Ireland and I always said I would do it another time because I was focussing on my club football.
“It was a bit of a regret, but then I got an email in 2015 from Montserrat saying that they were aware of my heritage.
“I didn’t pay it too much attention at first but, then when I saw the calibre of players and how they were going about their organisation, I thought it would be a great experience.
“That was where it began and it’s just gone crazy with the results which we have achieved.”
Montserrat are managed by Willie Donachie, a former international footballer himself who 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.
Donachie and his Montserrat charges will be jetting out to the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao later this month to play the first of their World Cup qualifying matches.
They have been drawn in a group alongside El Salvador, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada 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.
Doanchie 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.”
Their rise to prominence has seen Nottingham Forest striker Lyle Taylor take the captain’s armband while Brandon Comley plays professionally for Bolton Wanderers.
Donachie is now relishing the challenges ahead which will also see Montserrat 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.”