What a great tour! This was the very 1st Tour by our Eastern FC CT BOYS. Being my 7th year of running the Liverpool trips, this without doubt compares to every other.
Here’s the rundown of our tour. Check out the photo's in the 'Pictures' menu on the left hand side too. ENJOY...
Day 1: Friday February 10th 2012
The meet went well at OGRCC. We left with gusto for the airport and arrived in timely fashion at 5:15pm. Through customs and complementary guest group room, we boarded our flight on time for the UK. WE WERE OFF.
Day 2: Saturday February 11th 2012
We arrive 30-minutes early!! were through customs and on our way to Southport by 8am UK time (3am US time). Having checking into our rooms, we enjoyed a full English breakfast and ALL the trimmings.
A walk of the infamous Southport pier ensued and a sample of that true English fresh air. No time to wait though, our coach arrived @ 12:30pm to whisk us off to Goodison Park and the Premiership clash between Everton and Chelsea. Stopping off to pick up the Eastern living legend Ronnie Smith on the way (and Crouchie-look-a-like too!)
WHAT A GAME. Dominated by Fellani in the heart of the Everton midfield, Everton took the lead within 4-minutes through a superb effort by #24 Pinnaar. The back and forth play brought many groans of worry from the Evertonians. But with 16-minutes to spare, Everton sealed the win with a goal from #11 (couldn't spell his name if I tried!!). Elation for the home fans, despair for the traveling fans and a HUGE smile for the Eastern FC CT boys.
Back to the coach and back to the hotel. Dinner and lights out. The boys are wiped out. Great way to start the tour. The boys will need their sleep for the challenge of Burscough tomorrow morning......STAY TUNED.
Day 3: Sunday February 12th 2012
We woke up to PERFECT football playing weather. 45' with slight moisture in the air. After a hearty breakfast, we set off for the 125-year old semi-professional ground of Burscough FC:- Victoria Park. The boys were in high spirits. Ready for the game and finding out how wonderful the English drink of Lucozade is!!! Asda took a bashing!!
The game started evenly enough. Words of encouragement from Ronnie and Paul Smith echoed around the ground. Burscough leapt into a 1-0 lead off a corner, 20-minutes into the game. Initially cleared, the Burscough center back drilled the loose ball from the top of the penalty area, over the Eastern FC CT keeper Chris Mackay.
A good half time team talk from Ronnie Smith, sent the boys out with new found belief. They set about their task well. Unfortunate to concede a second goal (against the run of play) 10-minutes into the 2nd half. Not once did the boys drop their heads or loose there focus on how to play football. They got their rewards after a neat passing combination sprang Pablo Martinez through the offside trap and one on one with the GK. Pablo don't miss those chances!!
At 2-1, the Eastern FC CT boys had their bit between their teeth and staged an onslaught in the Burscough half. With 5-minutes to go, Burscough caught the boys with poor defensive shape (as we looked for the equalizer) and beat them on a very well executed counter attack goal; 3-1. Again the boys fought hard. With 90-seconds on the clock, Conor Duffy received a ball from Lucas Rivero (after some good one two football between Lucas Rivero, Zach Friedman and Pablo Martinez. Conor turned his marked and power drove the ball over the keeper. The final score Burscough 3 - 2 Eastern FC CT
What a game. Congratulations to both teams for such an exciting and entertaining game.
Back to the home for some soup and crusty bread and then hit SPORT DIRECT. The boys shopped up a storm. Sports Direct will have to restock tonight!!!!
The boys were treated to a full English roast dinner before we set off for our annual bowling competition. This year it will be Greg's Giants v Sonnet's Superstars, Bridie's Bombers and Aida/Carlos Goalasso's. Results will be posted later tonight.
Day 4: Monday February 13th 2012
After the game yesterday, the boys couldn't wait to get to training today. Full of high spirits and NEW boots!! The boys got to see the amazing spectacle which is the Liverpool County FA ground. Greeted by the facility manager; Nicky O'Donnell, the boys were shown their locker room and got to meet their coaches for the week; Andy, Lee and Danielle (England U23 Goalkeeper).
The coaches took the boys through a classroom session emphasizing what they wanted to get out of the training sessions and how their philosophy to coaching is towards developing young soccer players. I'm pleased to announce, WE SHARE THE SAME PHILOSOPHY. Learn now, win later. Develop ability and performances will follow.
Then to the fields. The players and GK's went through a 2-hr training session which will be progressive and built on through the week.
After lunch, the boys were treated to a training session by our very own; Ronnie Smith. Smiles, shot and soccer prevailed.
Happily, the boys boarded the coach and headed into the heart of Liverpool and the Albert Docks. A short walk through Liverpool One and the boys entered the infamous "Cavern" Home of The Beatles.
Back to the hotel for dinner and the movies. What a fabulous day all round... not too cold and Lucazade is going by the dozen!!!
Day 5: Tuesday February 14th 2012
What a day... 2-hour session in the morning with Danielle and Lee, then off to Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC. A trip around the museum and then the stadium tour. What a buzz walking down the tunnel with the crowd cheering in the back ground. Unreal. THEN sitting in the Kop while "You'll never walk alone" blasting out the sound system.
We saved the best to last though... Our encounter with Tranmere Rovers Academy. What a game it turned out to be.
On the pristine Liverpool County Ground stadium field, under lights, the Eastern FC CT boys took an early lead. 6-minutes in, a neat through ball from Lucas and Pablo was off. Rounding the keeper and slotting home for a 1-0 lead. Minute 17 and 1-0 was turned into 2-0 from a 5-pass combination that fed the ball wide right. A great cross cleared by the Tranmere defense, fell to Kohei. He's perfect volley drilled the ball into the bottom corner.
But Tranmere showed their class. Pulling a goal back before the break, they put siege to the Eastern FC CT goal in the 2nd half. They scored 2 quick goal to take the lead 3-2. With 20-minutes on the clock, it looked like the flood gates would open. But they didn't count on the CT defense resolution. They stood strong and played proud. Chris pulled off some amazing saves and Conor could have clinched a last gasp equalizer. But great GK work from Tranmere held strong and 2-3 was the final.
Back on the bus and off to Haig Avenue, home of Southport FC for the game; Southport v Darlington. A rowdy crowd got louder with the Americans input. 2-0 Southport was the final. The boys get to play there tomorrow night.
A great day for the boys development. I was so proud of their performance today. Well done boys.
Day 6: Wednesday February 15th 2012
A little stiff and sore, the boys woke up with a new found belief in their hearts. They enjoyed there last training session at the Liverpool FA County ground with coach Lee. After some good varied 11+ warm up, they enjoyed a full training session on creating angles, switching play and finishing from wide areas.
A great wrap up to a very productive 3-day program. Run by the Everton Ladies assistant head coach Andy, Academy U15 Coach Lee and Everton Ladies and England U23 Goalkeeper Danielle. Our utmost thanks to Nicky, John and the entire Liverpool County FA staff.
An afternoon spent relaxing, shopping and preparing for another tough game against Southport FC at their beautiful home stadium Haig Avenue.
After raising their game to NEW heights to compete against a strong Tranmere Rovers Academy team, the Eastern FC CT boys were more than ready for the stiff challenge of Southport FC.
Our striker Pablo having receiving a concerning foot injury during the previous night’s game against Tranmere (Amazing how well the R.I.C.E technique works!!!) was in unstoppable mood again. He scored the first two, set up a third and was given some very tight marking. 3-0 at the break!! The passing and moving of all the Eastern FC CT players was a joy to watch. They maintained a level of play that would have challenged many Academy teams. Southport to their credit came out strong in the 2nd half, scoring in the first 5-minutes and then going close to adding a second. The game was heating up. Then Lucas and Pablo took over. Three quick goals ensued and the spirit of a dogged Southport team was broken. The score ended 9-2. Hat tricks for Pablo and Lucas, two for Conor and a superbly won and converted penalty by AJ. WHAT A PERFORMANCE. The score line was flattering, but the performance was truly breath taking. They are a credit to all of us. Keep it up boys.
Back to the hotel afterwards for some dinner and an early night.... Busy day tomorrow: - Blackburn's Academy and Premiership opposition.
Day 7: Thursday February 16th 2012
The boy awoke with a spring in their step and a smile on their faces. Devouring a full English breakfast, they were ready for the trip to the Blackburn Rovers Academy.
WHAT A FACILITY!! 9 Pristine pitches steeped in tradition and success. The Blackburn Rovers Academy has been the development home for such big Premiership players as Shay Given, Damien Duff, David Dunn, James Beattie, Phil Jones and so many, many more.
The boys were treated to a coaching session by Peter Nicholson. Peter played over 400 league appearances for Bolton Wanderers and other big English clubs. As the boys went through their paces, our Goalkeepers were taken by the Blackburn Academy 1st team Goalkeeper coach Steve French. If that wasn't enough football to take in, Tony Grant (Ex Everton and Man City star) put the Blackburn Academy 1st team through their paces for our coaches to watch. All the Academy coaches were very friendly and communicative. Sharing ideas and pointers for what they look for in an Academy player.
After lunch, the Eastern FC CT boys got to play against a Premiership caliber team (Blackburn Rovers Academy U12's) for the first time ever. The Blackburn team didn't disappoint. They moved the ball around with crisp inter active passing and sharp concise movement. It was a great learning experience to behold. To the boys credit, they hung in there and tried to play Eastern FC CT football. They were given very little space or time on the ball. But for some great Blackburn defending and stout goal keeping, our boys would have chalked up a few consolation goals to reward their creative play.
At the end of the game, our boys were in positive spirits. They have played such wonderful football all week and grown to new levels. Having seen players of their own age at Blackburn play at that level has only rekindled the fire inside our boys to want to learn more and get even better them.
Back to the hotel for a warm shower and dinner. Afterwards, the boys went up to the hotel's executive lounge to watch the Europa League games; Ajax v Manchester United & Porto v Manchester City. A surprise pizza delivery between games (courtesy of our hotel manager) and the boys were in their element. The end of another great day on Tour.
Day 8: Friday February 17th 2012
The boys got a well deserved lie in today. The aches and strains being rested for the morning with a final trip to the sports store. It’s a close call between Zach and Lucas as to who has bought the most in the sport stores!!!
After a good lunch, we set of for Chorley. A permanent venue for the Friday tour game. Steeped in tradition and true English culture, the boys were treated to the Rose of Lancashire countryside throughout our journey. Quaint canals, lined with house barges (these canals were the once used for transporting cotton to major shipping ports to be sent all around the world) and livestock at every turn.
Once in Chorley, the Chorley Wanderers Football Club (headed by ex-pro Ste Fisher) could not have been more welcoming. Hot chocolate and tea for all their American guests and calendar posters depicting both teams for all players. What a wonderful reception. Of course, our good friend Denis Winn helped make the connection.
Once the game kicked off, the Eastern FC CT boys took to Chorley Wanderers with renewed gusto. Creating angles for every pass, moving the ball over a true English sticky pitch. They had learned so much from their Blackburn experience the day before. To their credit, Chorley Wanderers put up a great fight. But in the end, the passing game of the Eastern FC CT boys paid off. Defense splitting passes and numbers up in attack soon yielded goals. Not just for the strikers, but from all positions. Every player put a good shift in. The final score, 8-0.
Back to the hotel for an unforgettable Steak and Onion pie and then back to out to the nationally televised Blue Square Premier clash between Southport v Grimsby. As guests of honor, the boys were introduced to the crowd before the game, got to walk out to the center circle to receive their applause and have their picture taken to commemorate the occasion. In good voice to compete with the large Grimsby supporters following, our boys became the unofficial Southport cheering section!! They chanted their little hearts out.
ANOTHER GREAT DAY ON TOUR...
Day 9: Saturday February 18th 2012
The boys woke up this morning aching after a last day or training and games, but wanting more!! A hearty breakfast. Some of the adults got spoilt with a breakfast of Smoked Haddock and poached eggs!!! We lived like kings...
For the players, the morning was spent packing. Trying to cram all of their purchases into suitcases and discarding all empty trainer boxes and unwanted bags. Recycling made a killing!!
Teasingly, I told the boys there was no lunch arranged at the hotel before we embarked on our journey to Goodison Park and the FA Cup 5th round tie between Everton v Blackpool. Hungrily the boys and parents trooped onto the bus, only to find 28-portions of traditional English Fish & Chips awaiting them. The smell of salt and vinegar flaring the nostrils.. Fantastic. What ensued and can only be described as feeding time at the zoo!!!
At Goodison Park, the boys got to see the colorful support of the Tangerines of Blackpool. Over 5000 away fans decked in Orange descended upon the Everton ground.
Great seats again for our party witnessing 2-early Everton goals and a dominance in perform that thwarted Blackpool at every turn. The game ended 2-0 Everton. They booked a place in the FA Cup 1/4 finals; playing Stoke at Goodison Park.
The last night of the tour is always known as "The Banquet Night". The boys got to choose the menu for their last meal. Chicken Fingers, Calamari, Pizza, washed down with Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. For the parents, it was (by popular choice, not just mine), HOT Chicken Curry and Nan Bread!!! Perfect.
The meal ended with an awards ceremony where Mr. Ronnie Smith handed out four signed (by Stevie Gerrard) footballs to players that excelled in their position.
Then it was early to bed before our 4:45am wakeup call!!!!
Day 10: Sunday February 19th 2012
Up at 4:45am, breakfast at 5:00am and departure for the airport at 5:30am. A wander through the airport shops before we took off and back to the USA.
Just when you thought all the excitement was over... OH NO. NOT ON OUR TOURS!!!
For the duration of the flight, Mr. McKinnon was sat next to Everton and USA No 1 Goalkeeper Tim Howard. After getting though customs, Tim enjoyed interacting with the boys. Asking them football questions, signing autographs and posing for pictures. A true professional and a great ambassador for the sport. Thank you Tim.
A quick and easy journey back to the OGRCC car park and the tour curtain came down for 2012.
I want to write a special thanks to our Tour Chaperones; Bridie Duffy and Greg Michalek. Thank you for all your hard work and help with the boys.
To our nutritionist Nancy Justicz. Always there with fresh fruit and Lucozade for the boys.
To our Tour Photographer Sonnet McKinnon. Sonnet was able to send daily updated pictures back to the US for Matt to upload onto the web site. With the time difference, it was like you readers were right there in the thick of the action.
To my colleague; Coach Darren Trim. As major a part of the smooth success of the trip as any member we had.
To the boys. You worked hard, played hard and gave everything you had. You got better as footballers every day. Your levels rose beyond our expectations. In the days to come, you will realize just how much you did in these special 10-days. I look forward to seeing you play this spring and of course, sign up for the 2013 Boys Tour!!!
Finally, to our players and parents back in the USA for following every detail of the tour as it happened via our web updates. Your support was fantastic. This is what we want from our club; Togetherness.
Thank you all. 2012 Boys Tour, it’s a wrap.