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PSV Union Players join Bay Area Select Girls Tour to UK in 2006

About the 2006 UK Tour

Several members of PSV Union U15 & U14 girls teams traveled to England in August of 2006 along with members of the Berkeley Mavericks Soccer Club. Two teams (a U14 & a U17 team) toured for two (2) weeks throughout England, visiting towns such as London, Oxford, Chester, Manchester, Liverpool & Stratford. Simon Ireland (World Soccer Tours) was the tour leader, assisted by Mr. Paul Williams. Both Gary and Carine Ireland were also coaches and guides for the fabulously successful tour program operated by World Soccer. While in England, the girls played youth teams from Premiership powerhouse teams: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton & Manchester City as well as other famous English clubs Millwall, Queens Park Rangers & Crystal Palace.

2006 UK Soccer Tour Diary by Gary Ireland

During the summer (7/ 28 - 8/14), Simon Ireland, Director of World Soccer, arranged concurrent tours to England for U/16 & U/14 girls teams, comprised of 30 former and current PSV Union, ACC Mavericks and MVLA Class 1 soccer players which featured games vs. Queens Park Rangers, Everton F.C, Manchester United, Chelsea F.C, Crystal Palace, Milwall & Manchester City. The players were also able to see live games at Liverpool F.C and Milwall F.C. Getting the right balance between traveling, sightseeing, training and playing games is never easy, however this time it all came together and the trip was a success.

Carine and I arrived at San Francisco airport 2.5 hours before departure to find all players of the U/14 team and their families waiting in the check in area. We re-introduced ourselves to the players and parents, most of whom we know particularly well from Union F.C and Berkeley teams which we have worked with in the past. I went through some safety and security guidelines/tour rules and conducted a passport check to see if everyone actually had them in their possession, unlike a member of the older team who had forgotten her passport at home a week earlier! …which is why the 3 hour pre-flight arrival time helped. The flight was uneventful with all the girls sitting together, most enjoying the in flight entertainment which is excellent on Virgin Atlantic Airlines (some 60 + latest movies).

Carine and I acted as tour guides and mini bus/van drivers and looked after the older team for the entirety of the trip after we transferred the younger girls to Simon who in turn was leading the other half of the trip. We arrived in England with the younger group after the older group had almost been in the U.K for approximately 5 days, already having played and watched games and having done some sightseeing. The sights and roads are all very familiar to us having lived in all the locations we visited and having driven the roads on numerous occasions. Knowing the short cuts and the hidden treasures was a bonus as we discovered on a few occasions. We were accompanied by Cathy Woo, mother of former Union F.C State team player Stephanie Woo, who did a great job keeping an additional watchful eye on the girls. (A few other parents, Boddie, Ducote, Wong-joined us for sightseeing and occasional meals).

After being greeted by Simon (officials from Croydon F.C Ladies team generously transported our luggage to the dorms) at London’s Heathrow airport, we collected the vans from the nearby van rental company, being driven on a short journey by shuttle bus around the perimeter of the airport (catching a glimpse of a ‘Concorde’ parked on a perimeter runway). We were at the college dorms and in the rooms within the next hour and then shared a meal with the older team and Simon & Paul after their return from watching a live Milwall F.C game. The girls had an early night and we were on the way to Liverpool via Oxford the following morning.

Oxford
After an early Sunday morning start through the sleepy streets near Kew Gardens in London, we set off on a short drive to Oxford on a beautiful luke warm day. The girls were in good spirits playing all sorts of ‘interesting music’ and we were soon in Oxford, walking the streets viewing the attractive architecture of Oxford University and sampling the local foods. The it was onto the ‘Punts’ (flat boats with a pole-similar in style to gondolas) for an hour or so. This was a lot of fun! Once we worked out how to turn left, we were on our way meandering along the river, bumping into the banks, other boats, trees and bridges along the way..and somehow managing not to knock Cathy and Carine out of the boat and into the water. A fun time was had by all. Afterwards it was back to the vans and off to Liverpool (no map necessary!), 2.5 hours drive north of Oxford.

Liverpool (5 nights)
As we arrived in Liverpool the weather changed dramatically, with darkening skies and pouring rain, which in hindsight was a welcome change to the hot and dry weather England had been experiencing. I had not ever before seen England so dry and brown in my life- the U.K was experiencing a drought. On the way into the city we drove past our old residence, Waterloo Warehouse, built in 1868 by French prisoners of war and recently voted ‘judged best urban renewal and best renovation in Britain’.

Liverpool is undergoing an urban regeneration currently with grants and funding from the E.C after being designated ‘European Capital of Culture’ in 2008. When we left Liverpool I recall seeing 2-3 cranes in the city- On the last trip I saw 30 cranes busy at work in 1 small part of the city. Visiting Liverpool is always an exciting trip for me because it is my birthplace, my former place of study and of course home to my beloved Liverpool F.C (LFC) with whom I had the privilege to coach with at the clubs famous youth Academy, known universally as “The Academy”. Carine had also played successfully for Liverpool F.C ladies team 3 years ago.  Needless to say, Liverpool is the home of ‘The Beatles’ and, dare I mention Everton Football Club. I was born in the year that England won the World Cup and the Beatles were sweeping the world off their feet…Liverpool at one time was one of the world’s largest shipping ports during the ‘peak’ of the British Empire. It also is home to the largest cathedral in Britain which has the heaviest peal in the world. There are two pipe organs in Liverpool Cathedral. The Grand Organ is the largest in the U.K and probably the largest operational organ in the world. 

It is always moving for me to go back to my birthplace, ‘Bootle’, even though I spent little time there before moving to Australia. Bootle (pop. 50,000) is a suburb of Liverpool essentially pretty much next to Everton F.C and ‘L.F.C.’s’ football stadiums and is known by the locals as being considered ‘the docks’.. Jamie Carragher, Steve McManaman and the famous ‘Dr Who’ all hail from Bootle… It’s also where the ferry’s sail to Northern Ireland. The docks made Bootle a target for German bombers in World War 2 and approximately 90% of the houses in the town were damaged.

FYI- The first proper main-line railway was the Liverpool and Manchester, which was opened to the public in 1830. And more importantly (for the European Emigrant) a link by ship to the East Coast of England with connections on the Great Central Railway directly to Liverpool where they would then journey on to the USA. And more importantly (for the European Emigrant) a link by ship to the East Coast of England with connections on the Great Central Railway directly to Liverpool where they would then journey on to the USA. Read this very interesting link on the role of Liverpool and migration to the United States and ‘New World’

After we settled into the University of Liverpool’s dorms we had a Chinese dinner at a local restaurant next to the University just off ‘Penny Lane’ (‘the’ Penny Lane from the Beatles song).  The next morning, on a beautiful day, Carine and I took the players on a 9 a.m run/workout/stretch/yoga through and empty but beautifully designed and maintained Sefton Park and then it was onto Chester for sightseeing, only a 30 minute drive away.

Ruthin Castle
We spent half a day visiting Ruthin Castle in Wales (see link above). This in itself warrants a short story, such was the amusement we had while there. For those of you reading this who were there on the trip, it goes to show you how much fun and adventure you can have if you pause for a moment and take a look around when you can. A series of coincidences allowed us to see hidden dungeons, pathways and even the gravestone of the “Grey Lady.” Needless to say, the ghost stories back at the accommodations really capped the visit. This was a tour highlight for me!

Game vs. Manchester City
The game was played at a suburban Manchester location on another rainy afternoon on a modest field. I was asked to referee the line (both halves!) but I was happy to get the workout while Carine coached the game.  The score ended 2-2 (Alissa Boddie 2 goals). Dr. Levermore came along with his partner Helen to watch the game which was a fairly competitive affair. We hardly t ouched the ball for the first 10 minutes as Man. City dominated play and we tried but failed to create some kind of rhythm. The opposing teams coach believed that our girls had the fitness which enabled us to compete and carried us through in the end. I agreed. Manchester City were technically a little superior and tactically better. We weren’t able to keep up with their pace at first. A lesson here: girls perhaps and our over reliance on physical fitness which we tend to depend on too much in the USA. The Man.City players were strong but fair tacklers and our prolonged lingering on the ball without support off the ball caused us to dwell too long and lose possession. 

University of Liverpool Prof Rogan Taylor & Prof Roger Levermore
Three years ago I completed a master’s degree in business at the University of Liverpool completing a 1-year MBA course titled ‘Football Industries’. While we were there, Carine played for Liverpool F.C ladies team and worked for a short period for The Gap, a job she obtained through her work as Manager of Banana Republic at Stanford Shopping Center.

I learned of the ‘Football Industries’ program while living in California and was recommended to the course by former FIFA Communications Director Keith Cooper (yes, another  Liverpool F.C fan and close associate of the club) who knew the Football Research Unit staff and held it in high regard. Only three of four Americans had completed the degree prior to me attending, so this was not only a groundbreaking course but it was also a novelty for Americans. Many of my classmates were law & business students from China, Japan, Switzerland, Brazil, England, Scotland, Korea and elsewhere. Most of the previous graduates found employment in football while some already had extensive experience in football or other sports such as Formula 1. Since graduating my classmates found employment in large consulting firms, agencies, marketing firms, federations and as agents and in media. For example ‘Tomo’ from Japan was responsible for bringing Real Madrid to Japan on a $10 mil/5 day tour for Platia, the Tokyo based entertainment group. He now works as an executive for Octagon, while Felipe works as a top executive for Globo/Traffic in Brazil who are Brazil’s largest and most influential media group which holds image/media rights for the Brazilian National teams. Another friend works as an executive for ESPN Brazil. Greg  works as the Scottish Premier League Director of Marketing and another works on the FIFA legal department. Other such as Daniel work in management for the world’s most prestigious football business convention ‘Soccerex’, in Dubai and London, headed up by Football Industries graduates.

I wanted to meet up with my former professor’s and introduce the players to these esteemed friends of mine whom I've kept in touch with since graduating. We were treated to a next to free lunch for all at the Graduate School of Business and also two impromptu 30 minute lectures/talks in lecture theatres by both professors which were entertaining, informative and really fun.  What an incredible treat by these super busy people! Roger did more of a Q& A on women’s football, while Rogan talked about the history of Liverpool, its culture and football…you can read more about these individuals by clicking on the links above. There are some books they have written you can find on Amazon.com too. One of them “Puskas on Puskas” by Rogan Taylor is a beauty and one of the best football books written.

Game Day & The Academy
We also visited my old coaching workplace, The Liverpool Academy, one of the world’s most famous coaching establishments.  We had the good fortune of being invited to a private viewing of the Reserve team by our good friend former England Youth Team coach John Owens, the current assistant ‘LFC’ Academy Director who coached Steve Gerrard, Carragher and the likes of Fowler, McManaman, Warnock and of course the famous Michael Owen. While at the Academy we were treated to a game featuring the ‘LFC’ Reserve team vs. Wexham Reserves, (Le Tallec, Sinama Pongole, Warnock, Diao, Agger, Potter etc) giving the kids and parents a close up and inside view of top flight soccer. Agger scored the winning goal for LFC only weeks later vs. West Ham with a 30 yard strike in the first league home game of the season.

We had a unique opportunity to watch a live match at the famous ‘Anfield’ Stadium, home of Liverpool FC, the most successful English team in history and one of the top 3 most successful teams of all time (along with Real Madrid and AC Milan) which was near to capacity vs. Macabi Haifa in their 2-1 victory in the European Champions League. A video of the pre-game singing (a real sight and sound to behold) of the famous LFC’s anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone' Video Here 

Liverpool’s next game, only days later, was to be vs. Chelsea F.C in ‘L.F.C’s’ 2-1 win over the current English Premier League champions in the Charity Shield Final, played at Cardiff’s Millenium Dome in Wales (the new $1.5 Billion Wembley Stadium is experiencing re-construction delays so all big games are played in Cardiff, which happens to be Wales!). Last year we saw (live) the Chelsea defeat ‘LFC’ 3-2 in the League Cup Final at the same stadium. The unique experience there was seeing 40,000 “Reds” fans on our side of the field and 40,000 “Blues” fans on the other…. ‘LFC’ scored after 40 seconds which almost took the roof off (no joke). This was the loudest sound ever recorded in an indoor arena, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

Game vs Everton F.C
The girls played Everton F.C U/14’s & 15’s, the Everton girls being 1-2 years younger-The result was 1-1 and Maddie Payne was the scorer. The game was played at the Everton Youth Academy, an all weather lighted turf field where Wayne Rooney had spent many years as a youth player.

Simon and Paul arrived in Liverpool shortly before the game and brought the younger team to watch. It was a chance for us all to rendezvous with John Owens who came to watch the game with his wife Laura. The last time he saw a women’s game was when he watched Union F.C defeat the Maveriks 2-0 at Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto last spring. The next morning he left for a weekend tournament to Valencia, Spain where his National Championship U18 team played a pre-season friendly tournament against Barcelona (0-2), Real Madrid (0-0), AC Milan (1-1) and Boca Juniors (0-0)- Having a coach of Johns experience and stature there to watch the girls play was a great treat for us and the players. English women’s soccer has picked up tremendously over the past few years. The Everton F.C youth team the girls played was coached by the Everton F.C ladies coach who were runners up in England’s Premier Division last season, finishing behind Arsenal F.C women’s team.  He was also a former L.F.C youth academy player, coincidentally coached by John Owens for many years, such is the very small world of Football…

Stratford Upon Avon
After saying a quick goodbye Simon and Paul & the younger girls team who had arrived the night before, we set off on a nice mild day southwards to London, via Stratford. It never ceases to amaze me how one could travel down the M62 & M6 motorway’s 45 minutes and pass approximately 35-40 professional soccer clubs with 15-60,000 seater stadiums while simultaneously dissecting the heart of the Rugby League world and the ‘birthplace’ of Association Football, not to mention covering the radius of the ‘Industrial North’ which was the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution in thirty of those minutes. The thought of the agonizingly slow ‘Stevenson’s Locomotive’ idling its way from Liverpool to Manchester in the 18th century while we, along with a million other vehicles, sped through the countryside also has a profound effect on me. We cover more distance in 15 minutes than they would in almost half a day. Transportation and communication is ever evolving and history is always in the making. Who knows how the next generation will be traveling to and from London?

A step back in time before the Industrial Revolution to the days when the “Cottage Industry” was prevalent when transport was a horse/and carriage for quick stop at Anne Hathaway’s (wife of Shakespeare) lovely thatched cottage then onto the town center for lunch and window shopping and then past Shakespeares death place and then stumbled upon a rehearsal of ‘Capulets & Montagues’ by Lope de Vega, a collaboration between the  Shakespeare institute and Warwick University which was a treat to be sitting by the river ‘Avon’ on a beautiful summer’s afternoon. After singing our version of the song in the play back to the van, it was back on the road, a slight detour away from the freeway for a very scenic drive on towards the ‘Rollright Stones’.

Rollright Stones:
On the way from Stratford Upon Avon to London we gave the kids a look at the eastern most part of the ‘Cotswolds’ by driving through the countryside rather than the motorway. It was a longer route but gave us all a chance to see the quaint villages and unique architecture...as well as an opportunity to take a step back from the freeways and cities and get a taste of country air… I took a slight detour as the light faded and we stopped of at the 5,000 year old Neolithic ‘Rollright Stones’, a kind of miniature version of ‘Stonehenge’… I’ve been to the stones 3 times now but have only ever seen 1 person there. It’s a nice well kept secret and although the stones aren’t large they are worth seeing and the drive is lovely. We were the only visitors and walked straight in which was amazing because these stones are unprotected…the sun was setting and the beams of sunlight were tremendous as they shone through the clouds which created a beautiful, almost eerie atmosphere..click on the link above to read more about the stones.

In the neighborhood of Oxford there are great stones (104 feet in diameter), arranged as it were in some connection by the hand of man. But at what time; or by what people; or for what memorial or significance, is unknown. Though the place is called by the inhabitants Rollendrith. (1. The man will never live who shall count the stones three times and find the number the same each time. In complete contrast it is also said that anyone who thrice counts the same number will have their heart's desire fulfilled. Even to this day it genuinely difficult to count the Stones, and modern accounts seem to vary in the numbers they give, especially as it is not known exactly which of the Stones are original.

This excerpt is from a website (?) I was looking at. Carine actually managed to count the stones 3 x and recorded the exact same number 3x. She got to make a wish to have her hearts desire fulfilled.

London:
It was back to London again after a pleasant journey through the English countryside. We arrived late at night, quite exhausted but found time to get into the dorms, change and head down to Richmond Upon Thames for dinner only a 10 minute drive away. After dinner it was a short stroll along the River Thames by streetlamp and then a shortcut through a park and housing community where we saw a Fox before heading home to sleep.

Game vs. Chelsea FC:
The game was played early morning on a Saturday at the Chelsea F.C’s new training ground (approximately 10 fields with all amenities), which is home to the Men’s, Women’s and Youth Teams in Cobham in Southwest Greater London where not only the first team train but also the youth teams and the women’s teams. It was a cold and windy day with some rain, the game being played on a very hard ground some 20 minutes away from our base. 

The score was 3-0 to Chelsea at half time, with the impressive Chelsea F.C winning by a final score of 5-1, our lone goal (Alissa Boddie) coming at the end of the game after Chelsea F.C had relaxed. Again, this was another tactical and technical lesson for our girls as Chelsea F.C showed their ability to play ‘off’ each other and attack efficiently and finish accurately. In defense they were more competitive and ‘read’ the game better, always providing depth when covering. What was very evident was their ability to link up and combine up front to maneuver the ball into shooting areas within 3-4 passes, regularly using ‘flick one’s’, playing the ball into space where ‘runners’ had already anticipated the pass. This sounds pretty basic, which it is, however, this is another weak area in youth soccer in the U.S.A. as players are tactically ‘slower’, which I believe is the result of poorer technique and lack of general soccer knowledge (U.S female players do not watch enough professional soccer, while the English players learn from osmosis living in their football culture-how many US female youth clubs teams at the home of their men’s professional teams training headquarters?).

Combination/collective passing is more sophisticated that the more physical and direct play we tend to see here (in women’s soccer). ‘Direct play’ can and does win games, provided the team playing this style can keep up this high tempo style of play for the duration of the game, however, if a team does have good technical ability and is able to ‘combine’ effectively, due to the fact that the ball can travel faster that any human being, in a perfect world if a team can play this way effectively it is not only more economical but it is more enjoyable to play in and watch. Defenders simply cannot continuously keep chasing the ball if a team is in comfortable possession.

The fluidity of Chelsea’s movement worked for them at this level because we couldn’t get defenders across quickly enough and get defenders behind the ball to defend this style of football. Quicker ball rotation isn’t the only way to unlock a defense however, it works a great deal of time at youth level if executed properly. Points to ponder.

After the game, the girls had a bite to eat and then it was into London on the train after a short walk to the station. We arrived at Waterloo Station after a 20 min trip on the overground train. From the station we then walked through the city, across the Millennium Bridge and into Trafalgar Square and directly to Lilywhites sports store in Picadilly Circus which was the girls’ favorite shop. Afterwards we were joined by former World Soccer coach Jan Weernink and his wife and family who now lives in Antwerp, Belgium, along with some of the parents who traveled with us for an enjoyable walk past Mayfair, Hyde Park Corner and Park Lane and High Street Kensington and onto ‘Harrod’s’. Due to time constraints we weren’t able to see inside ‘Harrod’s’ but we did eat at a restaurant behind ‘Harrod’s’ which was accommodating the entire Emirates & Saudi Royal families, or so it seemed. I personally was amazed a how many $300,000+ vehicles were parked around ‘Harrod’s’. Every car was a Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini. I’ve been all over the world and have never seen so many luxury cars in my life. It was like going to an expensive car show. Quite a strange sight.

We continued our walk past the beautiful Natural History Museum and through the streets of Chelsea to catch a bus down Fulham Road, past Chelsea F.C’s ‘Stamford Bridge’ and then onto the accommodations in Putney, just over the Thames.

For Carine and I it was the end of the tour. After saying goodbyes to the players we handed the group over to Simon who spent the remaining few days in London with them.

When the trip should have been ending, in some ways the adventure was just beginning. As many have said in the past, its not the destination that makes the trip worthwhile it’s the journey…Traveling for me isn’t always about things going perfectly according to planned. Many of my favorite trips were done on a shoestring and were unplanned…exciting, last minute, spontaneous….in the days before cell phones and internet or even accessible public pay phones when things went wrong, they could go seriously wrong…Nowadays we are so well connected and so well organized with access to real-time information that when something goes minutely wrong we are outraged. I always like to say that at least I have an adventure to tell and a story to cherish because coming through adversity is a character building and exciting adventure that is if you have time for adventure!

Carine and I had planned to return to the U.S.A. for our team camps which began the next day. Typically we leave London at approx. 11 a.m and arrive in San Francisco the same day at approx. 1:30 p.m…we didn’t get back to SF until 9 p.m due to the delay. 

The flight was safe and uneventful, although we weren’t able to carry on phones, laptops, bags (unless clear see thru) magazines & books. We did have to take an unscheduled bus ride from Heathrow to Gatwick airport just to get back home and discovered we were the 2nd re-routed Virgin Airlines flight….the kids on the other hand only experienced a slight delay of 2 hours.

TheĀ $20 million Liverpool FC Academy, for 140+ players & 80 staff