As you have probably noticed on these pages, I recently had the honour of training with the Swans for two weeks. I think the fact that I was able to come to Swansea and participate in a trial with the team really shows the power of the Internet. Thanks to Gary’s information on these pages, I was able to make contacts that would have been virtually impossible for someone from as far away as Florida. I even took advantage of Gary’s player profiles to study up on the players before arriving in Wales. Most of them were stunned that someone from Florida would know anything about them – I let most of them believe that their exploits were common knowledge in Florida – I didn’t have the heart to tell them that we seldom even see the scores from the Premier League.
I was extremely surprised at how friendly everyone was to me at the Vetch and in Swansea. Players like Shaun Garnett, Kwame Apadu and Linton Brown made me feel at home. I also realised that professional footballers maybe considered to be Gods by the fans, but in real life they are basically boys who never have to grow up. Roger Freestone is a prime example of what I’m talking about. With the occasional “pull your shorts down” while running routine, or the “moon the reporter” tactic, he definitely kept things interesting. There were several other clowns on the team, but Freestone was in a class by himself.
It may be surprising for you to learn that every player has a nickname – in fact, after the first day, I gave up on learning everyone’s real name and fell into the comfortable routine of using nicknames. Eggsie, Chappie, and Patty were just some of the names heard frequently during training. In fact, I got my own nickname within hours of arriving. Assistant skipper Billy Ayre called me “Yankee Doodle” and the name stuck – everyone but Joao Moreira called me by that name. Joao called me “Chris” probably because Yankee Doodle meant nothing to him.
In fact, Joao was one of the most interesting players on the team. During the first two days of training, he never said a word to anyone. When we took a break, he would listen to his Walkman or work crossword puzzles. One day, I decided to try having a conversation with him in Spanish because I knew Portugese was similar. The results were pretty dramatic. He seemed extremely surprised that a blue-eyed, blond-haired American could speak Spanish! Within a couple of days Joao, or “Joe” as the Welsh and English players called him, seemed to come to life. He became one of the biggest clowns on the team. He and I spent a lot of time together after that. I would say that bringing Joao out of his shell was my biggest contribution to the Swans. (I hope they find a Spanish or Portugese speaking replacement for me – I’m sure Joao will play much better if he has someone to talk with in his own language).
I was also extremely surpirsed at the coverage I received from the newspapers and television. It was if I had already made the team. I became an overnight celebrity. Everywhere I went, people would stop and stare at me or wish me luck with the Swans. I’ve never had that experience before and it certainly gave me several nice souvenirs to take home.
What I appreciated most was the hospitality shown to me by Jan Molby and Alan Curtis. The “gaffer” made me feel very welcome. (I think the fact that I could keep up with his players during the very tough first week of training convinced him that I was a serious soccer player). Alan Curtis is also a very friendly coach and his work with the Youth Team should get more attention. Ron Walton was also very helpful to me. Although Jan Molby didn’t offer me a million pound contract, he did offer me the opportunity to return at any time. Next year, I’ll be 18 and may be able to better match the physical style played in Britain. Who knows, my Swansea adventure may not yet be ended.
(Of course, if the supporters all got together and demanded that the team recall that “pacey young American winger” I think I could arrange to be on the next flight from Florida to the Vetch).
Thanks again to Gary and everyone in Swansea and at the Vetch. Good luck too, Swans!