The long-standing connection that links Doncaster Rovers’ Gary McSheffrey and AFC Wimbledon’s Johnnie Jackson

When Gary McSheffrey and Johnnie Jackson cross paths tomorrow, their exploits as teammates at the Toulon Tournament in 2002, rather than Doncaster Rovers v AFC Wimbledon, could be the topic of conversation.
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“We played together at England youth and then he had a loan at Coventry (in 2003), so we were teammates for a little bit,” said McSheffrey ahead of Saturday’s clash at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.

“I have known him throughout my whole career. We had one encounter last year where they (Jackson’s former club Charlton) beat us 1-0 at home.

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"He’s a great lad, I look forward to seeing him and hopefully we make it even.”

AFC Wimbledon manager Johnnie Jackson (Photo: Mark Fletcher | MI News).AFC Wimbledon manager Johnnie Jackson (Photo: Mark Fletcher | MI News).
AFC Wimbledon manager Johnnie Jackson (Photo: Mark Fletcher | MI News).
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The Doncaster Rovers team expected to take on AFC Wimbledon

Both men, then aged 19, made four appearances for Martin Hunter’s England under-20s at the 30th edition of what is also known as the Maurice Revello Tournament after its founder.

National teams representing football confederations from all over the world are invited to France every year to compete.

England’s most recent Toulon Tournament success came in 2018 when an under-21 side containing Tammy Abraham, Kyle Walker-Peters and Aaron Ramsdale beat Mexico in the final to lift the trophy for a third consecutive time.

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Along with the likes of Joleon Lescott and future Rovers’ players including Stephen Bywater and Frazer Richardson, McSheffrey and Jackson were bidding to end eight years of hurt for the Three Lions at the 2002 tournament.

But, typically, penalty heartbreak was to come.

Despite both players converting their spot kicks, England were beaten 5-4 by Japan in a shootout to determine who should finish third.

"We have lived hundreds of miles apart ever since,” added McSheffrey.

"He had a really good career. Had a good stint at Charlton in coaching roles and assistant roles, then eventually got the job.

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"I think when he left it hit him a little bit, he was quite shocked and disappointed with how it went down.

"But he got back on the saddle straight away and got a really good opportunity at a good club in Wimbledon.”

McSheffrey turns 40 tomorrow with Jackson reaching the same milestone on Monday, meaning there is the potential for someone's birthday celebrations to be diluted.

"That’s all I want (three points), that’d be a great birthday,” said ex-winger McSheffrey.

What about his friend, former defender Jackson?

"He’ll be saying the exact same.”