For the next week, FC Cincinnati GM and President Jeff Berding will share his thoughts, activities and photos from his trip to Europe through a daily blog. Check back daily for new blog posts.
On Monday morning, I had the pleasure to head back to South London for a visit to the Crystal Palace training grounds. Palace sent a car service to pick me up and an hour later I was welcomed into their offices. As we parked, I noted one of their Academy teams was boarding a bus as they had a match that evening.
Christine from the office staff met me at the door and we proceeded up a flight of stairs to the offices over-looking the practice fields. A group of players - appeared to be players not active on Saturday - were training and getting some work in. Shortly after making my way to the second floor, I was surprised to immediately be welcomed by Alan Pardew and taken into his office. I delivered to him the FCC pint glasses and commemorative scarves from our friendly. From his visit to Cincinnati, Alan was known to enjoy a good beer, so now he can do so in a pint glass bearing the marks of a city that knows how to brew a good lager. Due to customs challenges, I did not bring the Blood Orange IPA as I desired. He loved the glassware (used one during lunch) and said he would share the scarves with his staff.
Alan was very generous with his time and allowed me to visit with him for about an hour. We discussed a return visit from Palace, training facility priorities, manager and staff match preparation, schedules as well as player development approaches. We also compared notes on NFL versus EPL on a few issues. Given my limited professional soccer experience, you can imagine how I soaked up all the knowledge shared by a coach successful at the highest level in our sport. He was brilliant and made clear he values what we are building in Cincinnati.
As we wrapped up the hour, Alan directed two of his staff, who handle player personnel and also analytics, to walk me through their reports. Again, their approach was incredibly fascinating and unbelievably generous to share.
I look forward to utilizing what I learned when I return as I know we will upgrade our professional standards. Our team had a good first year. But our challenge is to build a sustainable and winning environment and culture. To achieve that, I need to get better and ensure we build sophisticated systems for facilities, scouting, player development and training. And what better place to learn from than in the birthplace of soccer, with another aspiring club blessed with great fans and strong ownership and who have formed a special bond with FCC.
After a full four-hour morning, I was back to the Andaz for my only true opportunity for London sightseeing. Of course, to Lindsay's chagrin, I was frequently on my phone as calls and emails required my attention. But I enjoyed seeing some of the beauty and history of this great city.
My next three days in London are all full with more tremendous soccer visits to help me improve in my role leading our club building efforts. It's a responsibility I love and take seriously - representing Cincinnati on this stage always.