DAY 1 – Friday, 5th August
The main group group met at LAX and caught a 1pm flight with Air Canada, stopping over in Toronto (another 5 of the group travelled independently and met up with the rest of the group at the tour Hotel in London). On the international leg of the journey the boys were given a quiz which tested their knowledge on where they would be going and what they would be doing in the UK. The prizes were big and included the infamous Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate!
DAY 2 – Saturday, 6th August
The group landed at Heathrow, London, late morning British time and boarded their own private luxury coach (bus) and travelled to the center of London to check into the tour hotel at Tower Bridge. After settling in for a short while, the group travelled to Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea F.C., for a Guided Tour. An evening meal and a couple of drinks saw the group in bed at a reasonable hour. Some of the group took an evening stroll around the Tower Bridge area.
DAY 3 – Sunday, 7th August
An early start and on the bus for the Blue Badge Tour of London. The group were entertained by humorous tour guide, Tony, who made the history of London both informative and fun. The group were able to ‘hop on & off’ at Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the houses of Parliament, Big Ben, & St.Paul’s Cathedral for pictures and mementos. The tour ended at the impressive Olympic Stadium (built for the 2012 Olympics) which has now become the home of West Ham United, the EPL team from the East end of London. The group were totally ‘blown’ away by the atmosphere of 50,000 supporters all singing the famous club tune “Forever Blowing Bubbles”, and watching the opening game for the stadium with a match v Italian champions Juventus. Unfortunately the Italians came out on top winning a close encounter 3-2 but it was fortunate for tour player Kawan Shali, who won the sweep for the correct score. His prize being more chocolate! The evening was spent at the hotel or in the vicinity following the evening meal.
DAY 4 – Monday, 8th August
“Southampton Day”. A trip down to the South Coast of England to train and play at the academy ground of Southampton FC, one of the most highly respected football academy programs in Europe having produced a huge number of top quality professionals including Arsenal duo Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcot, as well as one of the worlds best, Gareth Bale! The boys did well in the session and pleased their coach for the morning, Matt Crocker, who heads up the FA Coaching & Development program for the whole of England. Later in the afternoon the boys put their session to good use by beating local team Hythe & Dibden 7-1 in what was their first game of the tour. Although an easy win for our boys, the opposition were thoroughly welcoming and even asked for a penalty shoot out to finish the day. A final tour of the academy was given to our group who seemed to be super impressed with the set up at one of the top pro clubs in the EPL.
DAY 5 – Tuesday, 9th August
After checking out of the London hotel, to get their final glimpse and pictures of a very busy London, the group took a tour on the London Eye before they set off for the North of England. En route, they made a stop in the middle of the country at the FA Center, St Georges Park, where they were given a guided tour of the 105 million pound complex set in 330 acres of the Staffordshire Countryside and the home of England’s 24 national teams, catering for all levels. Next stop was Chester, where the group checked into the Queen Hotel for the next 5 nights and they Northern England segment of the tour.
DAY 6 – Wednesday, 10th August
“Manchester Day”. Pro coaching Experience #2 for the boys with an early session with a Manchester United academy coach before moving on to Old Trafford, the famous Theatre of Dreams, where the group were treated to another guided stadium tour. The afternoon was spent in Manchester, shopping and sightseeing, with a number of the group spending some time in the FA Museum in the center of Manchester.
DAY 7 – Thursday, 11th August
It was onto Wales for the group today and it started with a visit to the beautiful castle in Conwy. The boys had fun in and out of the turrets. Lunch seen the group sample the famous Conwy Fish & Chips prior to setting off further into Wales for their second game of the tour. The game against Welsh opposition TNS (New Saints, Welsh Semi pro Champions) proved a lot tougher than the first game with our boys 2 down at half time. They rallied well to tie it up in the 2nd half but eventually lost 4-2 in what was a great game of soccer. After some light refreshment the group returned to Chester for the evening where they had a group quiz as coaches Michael Duggan and Gwynn Williams became quiz masters for the evening.
DAY 8 – Friday, 12th August
Following a little free time in Chester the group travelled to Manchester again, this time for a tour of the Manchester City Academy. The group were personally given a tour of the complex by Academy Director, Mark Allen (Mark just so happens to be an a former college friend of Coach Michael Duggan and a former player of Coach Gwynn’s from back in Wales on the semi pro circuit). After thinking Southampton Academy was ‘the tops’, the group were ‘blown away’ by this facility built on an infinite budget. More shopping and sightseeing in Manchester followed before the group headed to Skelmersdale, just north of Liverpool, for their 3rd and final game of the tour. The fixture against Skem North Junior F.C. put our boys up against much bigger boys, with some almost a year older. It showed in the first half as they struggled to acclimatize to the physical challenge and trailed by the one goal going into the half. However, our boys rose to the challenge in the second half and came back strongly using their higher level of fitness to overcome the opposition by 4 goals to one. A fantastic result to finish the Tour on!
DAY 9 – Saturday, 13th August
The group left for Liverpool quite early after breakfast and headed for the Albert Dock and it’s many attractions. Some of the parents and boys even frequented the “Cavern Club”, where the Beatles made their name. It was a great morning of sightseeing and learning the history of this famous old English city. The afternoon saw the group head to Goodison Park for the EPL opener between Everton and highly fancied Tottenham Hotspurs. In front of over 40,000 supporters, the parents and boys were able to soak in the unique atmosphere of such a high profile EPL fixture. The game finished 1-1 and was a thrilling encounter. Back at the hotel, a final meeting after dinner saw all the boys receiving praise for a great week of fun & soccer. Special awards were given to each man of the match and an overall player of the week. According to coaches Duggan & Williams, “the boys had been an absolute pleasure to be with both on the field and off it, and were a credit to their parents and families!”
DAY 10 – Sunday, 14th August
The group travelled back to London in good spirits following what had been an outstanding 10 days for all involved before jumping on a plane back home (some families diverted elsewhere for extended vacations). After returning safely to their homes in sunny San Diego County, all players will now be able to reflect on the trip of a lifetime for some time to come!
To view more pictures from the 2016 UK Tour please click here.