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.
The start to Wednesday was pretty chilly, with frost on the ground at Mottram Hall outside Manchester. Mottram Hall is a beautiful historic English estate that now functions as a hotel and golf course. After a good breakfast, Mark Gibbon and I were on our way to Aston Villa Football Club.
Later in the morning, we arrived at Aston Villa and met with Steve Round, the new Technical Director. Aston Villa is a storied club, over 140 years old and one of four founding members of the English Premiere League. Aston Villa presented an example of the English system of promotion and relegation as they have recently been relegated to the Championship League below the EPL for the first time in their history. It is interesting to note that they were the second English team to win the European Cup, which is now known as the Champions League and they are the biggest team from England's second biggest city, Birmingham.
With the drop, Villa's new owners opted to change the senior technical management of the club. Steve came on as new Technical Director and is charged with building up the soccer program in the club. With a new manager now in place, there are serious changes underway for Villa. Steve walked me through the responsibilities of his role, and his relationship to ownership, club executives, technical staff and of course his first team manager. He guided Mark and me on a tour of Villa facilities and we briefly stopped in on a training session. Steve's experience and knowledge were outstanding and I made plenty of notes to bring back to FCC.
From Villa, we continued south to the National Training Center at St. George's Park, home for Team England. This beautiful facility includes two adjacent hotels to accommodate corporate guests, coaches on site for clinics, players and staff from other sports (i.e Australian Kangaroos Rugby) as well as the national team (not just for soccer). The hotel was first class and of course, the soccer facilities were outstanding. The indoor training site was very well designed and the outdoor pitches were pristine. The fields could accommodate friendlies, and there are several clubs nearby to potentially participate depending on timing.
After our meeting and a tour with their Facility Manager and Sales Director, I think an FCC trip here is worth exploring. A future trip could even include potential Academy staff to learn best practices and participate in clinics, which were occurring while we visited. We could look to tie in with one of the club's we visited with as well.
Dan Ashworth, the FA Technical Director, was also available to answer some soccer-related questions. His experience guided me as I look to build our FCC soccer infrastructure. I would love to visit and learn at our USA Soccer home in the future. This visit has motivated me to work harder and smarter as we continue building up our sport of soccer in our community & country.