Celtic’s commitment to developing Academy players into first-teamers

Scottish champions Celtic have a genuine commitment to developing their academy players into first-teamers; we caught up with the club’s International Soccer Academy Manager to find out more…

Last May Celtic youngster Jack Aitchison became the club’s youngest ever goalscorer at 16 years and 71 days old after netting in the 7-1 romp over Motherwell in the final game of the season.

Aitchison, now 17, has gone on to make six senior appearances this season, scoring three times and he is just one of a long list of youngsters, past and present, who have graduated through the club’s St Ninian’s Academy and into the first XI.

In fact Willie McNab took great pride in telling us: “18 Academy players since 2001/02 that have now made their debut in the Champions League.”

Willie, who will be joining us in Boston on April 28, 29 to lead two coach education sessions, remembers the day when Aitchison scored.

“We were playing down at Annan with the U15s that day; Jack is just a year older than these kids and we were all listening on our phones and watching Twitter and we heard he had come on,” he said

“And then we heard he had scored. It was unbelievable, there was big cheer that went up in the changing room.

“You just need to look at Jack and Kieran Tierney, Liam Henderson, Callum McGregor and James Forrest, who have all been here since they were young kids. They are a fabulous example.”

READ MORE: Six tips for soccer coaches…

Willie, who is also part of Celtic’s U15s set-up, told us he had recently caught up with Tierney – another Hoops graduate who has already faced Barcelona at the Camp Nou.

“I actually managed to speak to Kieran last week and although he is only a young lad himself he was giving some great advice to some of the younger lads coming through.

“He was telling them how he started just kicking a ball against a wall to practice his touch and working on his left foot, right foot.

“It is inspirational for the younger guys coming through. I work with the Under-15s and it’s aspirational and inspirational to look at someone like Kieran and what it could mean in a few years time if you are willing to work hard and live the right life off the pitch as well as on it.

“It is great to see so many young players getting their opportunity and it bodes well for the future.”

Willie recently went through six of his best tips for coaches and he says he regularly keeps abreast of coaching techniques from other soccer coaches and from other sports to keep ahead of the game.

“There was a basketball coach speaking recently about players taking responsibility for themselves and working hard and we actually showed the players before we went on the pitch last night,” he said.

“We played them the clip and then waited until after the session and it was about it being a team effort and not just about the individual and how they are always developing.

“The kids I have are just a couple of years away from potentially having a professional contract and being in and around the first team and it is becoming real for them.

“But they are still kids and developing and we have to give them that environment where they can still make mistakes and that it is okay to mistakes, but still get them ready for the chance when it comes along.”

Celtic Academy ethos

The ethos at Celtic’s Academy, set out by Chris McCart, is to “strive to develop first team regulars who are capable of performing in the Champions League for Celtic” and Willie told us that working at the highest level possible is uppermost in the coaches’ thoughts.

“The ethos set by Chris McCart is trying to develop players that can play at the highest level possible, be that in the Champions League or for their country and we’re hoping for Scotland because we have predominantly Scottish players in the Academy.

“We are under no illusions as coaches that is the level we are striving for and we know not every kid will hit those heights and maybe they will find a level elsewhere.

“I think it is now 18 youth Academy players since 2001/02 that have now made their debut in the Champions League. It’s an excellent record. Three of them did it this season – Kiernan Tierney, Liam Henderson and Callum McGregor.

“Tierney made his debut in the Nou Camp against Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez. I was talking to him the other day about it and he said it was just ‘unbelievable’ and in the second game against Man City where he scored he had a real battle with Raheem Sterling and that is the level we want the boys to get to.

“We do understand though that they develop at different rates and not all of then will make that level but if you shoot for that level, both on and off the pitch then it gives them the best opportunity to have a career within the game.”

 We asked Willie at what age do the academy players start thinking about tactics.

“The technical basis is really important. We make sure a player can receive the ball, pass the ball, run with the ball, but there is also the tactical element too,” he added.

“That becomes really important especially when they start playing 11 a side. Our Under 12s now are starting to learn that side of the game about balance and not attacking with too many players and making sure you are not leaving yourself open to a counter-attack.

“The technical element is hugely important, but when the players get to 13 and upwards the tactical element is also introduced.”


With counter-attacking becoming more popular in the modern game we asked Willie whether the Academy starlets were well versed on how to break quickly and how to stop being caught out by quick-thinking opponents.

“Yes it’s more of a consideration these days. We also say ‘when you are attacking be in a good defensive position’ and so it’s knowing that when you are attacking you are at your most vulnerable.

“If you look at the stats and the technical report from the UEFA Champions League was that a quicker build up is now happening, apart from Barcelona, who are more methodical.

“Goals are being scored within three or four passes now and teams are going at you quickly and if you flood too many men forward, teams will just pick you off.

“If you look at Celtic and they way they play I think we’ve only conceded 22 league goals all season and very few of those, maybe none have been conceded from the counter-attack.

“We make sure that when we have possession for long periods, the door is shut behind you.

“So we say to our kids ‘when you are attacking be in a good defensive position and when you are defending be in a good offensive position’. ‘Be in an area where you can win the ball back and start a quick counter attack.’

“That is the information we are giving to our kids in the U14,” added Willie.

For more information contact GoPlay…

Twitter: @goplaysoccerusa

Facebook: @goplaytours

Tel: 800-888-ACIS.



Six coaching tips from Celtic’s International Soccer Academy Manager

GoPlay Sports caught up with Celtic’s International Soccer Academy Manager and asked him for his six top coaching tips.

We are honored to have partnered with Celtic for the next three years and we will act as the club’s designated United States travel operator for the Academy’s clubs in the US.

And to launch our new link-up Willie McNab will be heading to New Balance headquarters in Boston later this month to host two days of coach education sessions on April 28, 29.

But ahead of the widely-anticipated sessions we had a chat with Willie and asked him what the most important skills for a coach to possess were, regardless of their level.


1. Preparation

Be prepared in everything you do. If you are looking at just one session then know exactly what outcomes and your objectives are in the session and how many players you have so it’s not off the cuff.

2. Clear Vision

Have a clear vision and philosophy of what you want to do. It is so hard to put something in place when you don’t have that philosophy that’s driving what you want to do.

That’s from a personal coaching point of view and from your club too. You need to have a crystal clear vision.

3. Drive

No matter what level you coach at you always need to be watching other sessions and watching other clubs of all levels that can broaden your horizons.
There are also a lot of excellent podcasts and videos out there with guys that are currently in the game that outline current trends.
Take yourself out of your comfort zone. Have an open mind.

4. Humility

Have that respect factor and not only for your players but also from your fellow coaches. It’s something that Brendan Rodgers preaches here at Celtic.
No matter who you are speaking to, whether it is a five-year-old or one of your fellow coaches it’s vital you have that humility.
The head of the Academy Chris McCart has always instilled that and when Brendan Rodgers came in he just reinforced it and when you have got someone like Brendan Rodgers, who has been where he has, coming in and saying the same it just reaffirms the good work that is going on in the Academy.

5. Fully commit

Make sure you fully commit to what you are going to do. I love coaches who have an enthusiasm for the game.
You have to put your heart and soul into it. Players look at the coach to get inspiration from and you can be a role model and a father figure/big brother figure and they will try and model themselves on you, so you have to give off that enthusiasm.

6. Be yourself

Do not copy anyone. Get inspiration from other coaches and look at the top guys like Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Brendan Rodgers and get ideas, but ultimately be your own person.
Have your own personality and attitude. You don’t need to become a clone of anyone.
For more information contact GoPlay…

Twitter: @goplaysoccerusa

Facebook: @goplaytours

Tel: 800-888-ACIS.

#bedforawayfans initiative shows why terror will never win

Images of opposition football fans standing in unity will be the overriding memory from last night.

Pictures of the stricken Dortmund team bus, with shattered windows and scores of police officers trying to quell the panic were just a side issue; that temporary chaos should and not be the focus of Tuesday’s night’s latest assault on humanity.

When three explosive devices were detonated near the Borussia Dortmund team bus ahead of the night’s Champions League clash with Monaco, the perpetrators aim was to cause carnage, injure and maim innocent citizens. Fortunately only one person was injured – Dortmund player Marc Bartra who suffered a broken wrist – but the abiding memory will be of how the football world closed ranks to condemn another thoughtless act of violence.

Attacking soft targets appears to be a common theme throughout the world, with so-called Islamic terror groups aiming to cause as much destruction and loss of life as possible with the apparent goal to split and divide communities and to stop people travelling and experiencing other cultures.

As per the famous quote by Benjamin Disraeli: “Travel teaches toleration.”

And on Wednesday all efforts to deny travel and thus halt toleration failed. In Dortmund the latest was not successful and future demonic efforts to attack ‘life’ will continue to fail too.

One person on Twitter encapsulated the mood.

The images and videos of Monaco fans singing and showing their solidarity for their Champions League opponents Dortmund won  – it was a beautiful sight. Within the hour the German hosts had started the ‘bedforawayfans’ initiative which enabled any stranded French fans the opportunity to stay at the houses of their hosts.

It consequently went viral with hundreds of Monaco fans from all backgrounds, who suddenly needed an extra night’s accommodation, sharing pictures and video on social media displaying of their togetherness.

Monaco later offered an allowance of 80 euros for every fan stuck in Germany, but with such generosity from Dortmund fans it was unlikely the club’s offer was taken up by many.

Germany defender Benedikt Howedes, captain of Dortmund’s fierce rivals Schalke, wrote: “Football unites. What a great initiative! #bedforawayfans”

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke urged his players to show their club does not bend to “terror and hatred”.

Watzke said in a statement on the club website: “The BVB family was always especially strong when it had to cope with difficult situations. This is perhaps the most difficult situation that we have faced in the past decades. I am sure that we will show ourselves as a strong and united BVB like never before.

“We do not just play for us today. We play for everyone – no matter whether Borussia, Bayer or Schalke supporters. We want to show that terror and hatred can never dictate our actions. And of course we play for Marc Bartra, who wants to see his team win.

“We ask all BVB fans to support our team today with total energy for 90 minutes. This team had to process the incomprehensible in a short space of time. We should all help you to come to terms with it.

“I just appealed to the team in the changing room to show society that we do not bend before terror.”

Watzke summed up the feelings of the majority as football showed the world that there will only be one winner in the fight against terror.

Matthew Briggs

GoPlay celebrate Celtic link-up with coach education sessions

To celebrate GoPlay Sports’ new partnership with the Celtic Soccer Academy we are holding a series of coach education sessions at the New Balance headquarters in Boston.

We are honored to have partnered with Celtic for the next three years and we will act as the club’s designated United States travel operator for the Academy’s clubs in the US.

And to kick off the relationship International Soccer Academy Manager Willie McNab will be coming to Boston to deliver a coach education session and an on-the-field demonstration later this month.

We caught up with McNab, who has built a fine reputation as a soccer clinician, demonstrating all over the world, including at numerous NSCAA Conventions, to ask him about what he is hoping for from the two-day course.


When and where are the sessions?

I’ll be across in Boston from April 26 to April 30 and the actual dates of the coaching sessions will be April 28 and April 29 at the New Balance headquarters in the city.
The Friday will be a theory based session and on the Saturday will we have the field demonstrations.

What can we expect from the sessions?

I work at the NSCAA Coaching Convention every year and the sessions will be similar to that. At the Conventions though you have such a wide-ranging audience – you have people working at grass-roots level all the way through to the professional level and also it’s about trying to find the right level to pitch at.

The Boston sessions will be to a smaller audience – maybe 60 coaches – rather than up to 2,000 that you can have watching at the Convention.

There will be a more intimate feel to it and I’ll be able to spend more time with the group as a whole and maybe if individuals want to chat I’ll be able to do that in a more relaxed environment.

The Conventions are absolutely brilliant but there are a lot of people there from all over the world offering insights and opinion, whereas these sessions will be focused on Celtic so we can give them some real insight into what we are doing.

Sometimes big venues can be intimidating and if someone has a really good question, they tend not to pose it, they tend to come and ask you one-on-one, so a smaller setting should allow people to ask those questions.

It also gives us the chance to tell people about the 24 partners in North America and we also have three partners in Panama and Venezuela and Costa Rica so it’s about letting coaches know about how partnering with Celtic can benefit them.

How will the partnership between Celtic and GoPlay work?

So basically through this new partnership GoPlay will be identifying clubs in the local area to invite them along so we can tell them a bit about what we are doing at the Celtic Academy but also what we are doing in North America with the club partnership programme that we have at the club.

And we’ll also be letting them know about the opportunity they have to travel with GoPlay and the strong relationship we have with them.

The relationship with GoPlay will mean that any clubs who show an interest in coming to Celtic will be offered GoPlay’s expertise in arranging their travel arrangements.
But in addition to that GoPlay have also got some fantastic relationships with some local clubs in Boston but also further afield across America – it’s a win-win situation for both Celtic and GoPlay.

For more information contact GoPlay…

Twitter: @goplaysoccerusa

Facebook: @goplaytours

Tel: 800-888-ACIS.

GoPlay to Sponsor 2017 International Goalkeeper Coaches Conference

GoPlay is extremely excited to announce our sponsorship of The International Goalkeeper Coaches Conference at The Sawgrass Grand Hotel, happening June 2-4th 2017.

The conference is organized by founder and director Phil Wheddon, a former Goalkeeper Coach of the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams. After attending a Goalkeeping conference in Holland, Phil recognized the need for a similar conference in the United States. When returning from Holland, he began putting together a non-licensing, non-affiliated event specifically for goalkeeper coaches.

The conference will offer some of the best goalkeeper training the world has to offer featuring some of the worlds’ best goalkeeper coaches including:

– Michael Rechner – First Team Goalkeeper Coach, Bundesliga – TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. Since 2008 Michael has also been the Goalkeeper Coach TSG 1899 Hoffenheim Academy / Coordinator Goalkeeping. In 1999-2004 Michael played professionally in Germany: Hamburger SV, Mannheim, Leipzig.

– Hugo Oliveira – Premier League Hull City Goalkeeper Coach. Former S. L. Benfica and Portuguese National team goalkeeper coach. Worked with talents such as Jan Oblak, Julio Cesar, Ederson Moraes and more.

– Eric Steele – Ex-Derby County, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Manchester United GK Coach. Former FA GK Coach of the year – has coached football greats; Peter Schmeichel, Thomas Sorensen, Joe Hart, Edwin van der Sar and David de Gea.

– Andrew Sparkes – Head of Academy Goalkeeping Swansea City. Previously @newyorkredbulls Head of Academy Goalkeeping | u18 GK Coach @redbullsalzburg

– Lee Kendall – England WNT Goalkeeper Coach Since 2014. Lee works primarily with the senior squad of Goalkeepers, but he also oversees the program from the U15 to Senior International team. As part of the England WNT bronze medal winners in the 2015 World Cup in Canada, Lee helped aid Karen Bardsley performances in the FIFA tournament.

– John Cone, PhD. – Soccer-specific Fitness Specialist and Founder of Fit for 90. John has a PhD in kinesiology and is a former MLS assistant coach and director of sports science.

“The International Goalkeeper Coaches Conference is the only conference in the country dedicated to the development of goalkeeper coaches and the goalkeeping position. The IGCC is committed to bringing together the top goalkeeping coaches from around the world to share information and impact the development of goalkeepers worldwide. With that in mind we are thrilled to partner with GoPlay Tours, the industry leader in sports tours both domestically and internationally. As a partner, GoPlay will offer amazing opportunities for attendees to experience the game at the highest levels in unique settings. GoPlay Tours will provide access to coaches and training environments that will give our coaches and their players an insight into the workings and operations of some of the top clubs in the world. GoPlay Tours is, without a doubt, the #1 recommended sports tours company in the country and we are excited to enter into this partnership with them.”

Phil Wheddon, Director and Founder of the International Goalkeeper Coaches Conference

“The International Goalkeeper Coaches Conference is a world-class collection of goalkeepers and coaches that gives attendees the chance to learn, network and grow. At GoPlay, our mission is to help players and coaches see the world and reach their full potential as players in the process. We’re absolutely thrilled to support such a world-class organization and partner with such a qualified group of coaches and mentors.”

Brian Ainscough, GoPlay Tours Technical Director

To receive a $200 discount on registration for the conference, use the discount code GOPLAY17 before May 1st.

All of the details around the conference program, accommodations and presenters are available at www.internationalgoalkeepercoaches.com

Julian Gressel: ‘It all started with a GoPlay tour’

Smiling from ear to ear, new Atlanta United Superdraft pick Julian Gressel came to see us in Los Angeles and told us “it all started with a GoPlay tour”.

It was music to our ears. What an incredible endorsement.

Less than a year after his Spring tour to Italy with Providence, it was evident the experience had stuck with the Germany-born midfielder. He might have been forgiven for forgetting his Rome trip; he had after all just been the eighth pick in the first round of the MLS Superdraft.

He was just starting out life as a pro in the MLS, but his 10-day trip to Europe was fresh in his thoughts and that of his college coach Craig Stewart, who guided the Friars to another stellar season.


The fact GoPlay managed to make a lasting impact on Gressel, coach Stewart and the Friars boys is an honor and what a season they had on the back of it.


“It feels great, it feels like a great honor and I’m very excited about it,” Gressel told GoPlay, when asked about being a first-round pick.

“I wanted to be a professional soccer player and I knew I could achieve it by going to Providence and spending four years there learning.

“I went there with the idea of becoming a professional after my time with Providence. To get an education and to play soccer were the major reasons for me to go there.”

Gressel, who was described by Atlanta United as “the most pro-ready of the possible picks out there in the top 10”, enjoyed a brilliant season with the Friars.

Atlanta United president Darren Eales said: “Julian is a player who we feel is ready to contribute after a very successful college career and his versatility made him appealing.”

Gressel, 23, made 21 appearances for the Friars in which he scored 15 goals and notched six assists in the 2016 season. Gressel, who was product of the SpVgg Greuther Fürth academy, was also named a NSCAA First Team All-American and was a Mac-Hermann Trophy semifinalist.

‘To be honest I think that’s where it all started for Providence last spring’

We asked Gressel just how the experience in Italy, where the Friars visited the AS Roma Academy, helped the team’s togetherness, he added: “We went on a trip to Italy and yes I think it definitely did.

“To be honest I think that’s where it all started for Providence last spring. It shaped our team identity, it shaped who we were in the past year and helped our culture a lot.

“It was something special. You could tell that GoPlay cared about us and what we did there and we just had a great time. We were just well-taken care of.”

Coach Craig Stewart, who has aided his development over the last four years, said: “Julian came in very mature player coming over from Germany but I think he has continued to take his game to the next level every year.

“It took a lot of hard work to do that but he has been very determined to do accomplish his goals and I’m delighted he’s been picked in the first round of the draft.”

‘It helped our culture a lot’

During his senior year, five of Gressel’s 15 goals came as game-winners, including the lone goal in the Friars’ 1-0 victory over St. Johns to win the Big East regular season title. Gressel also scored twice in a 5-4 victory over No. 1 seed and previously unbeaten Maryland in the NCAA Tournament, in which the visitors managed to overhaul a 4-1 deficit.

The Friars were down 4-1 with 21 minutes on the clock to the tournament favorites only for Gressel to power home from close range to start an unlikely comeback. Another three goals completed a stunning fightback and moved Providence into the last 16.

There they saw off Creighton 2-1 before eventually losing in the quarter-finals to North Carolina 1-0 in a double overtime thriller at Fetzer Field. There was no disgrace in defeat against the No 10 ranked team in the country though and the Friars finished their 2016 season with a 15-7 record.

There’s no doubting that the powerful Gressel was an integral part of a successful Friars side and he has accumulated no shortage of honors.

He was named Big East Co-Offensive Player of the Year (2016), First Team All-Big East (2016), Big East All-Tournament Team (2016, 2015, 2014) and Big East All-Rookie Team (2013). He also helped the Friars to the NCAA Tournament in three of his four seasons, reaching the Semifinals of the NCAA College Cup in 2014. The Friars also won the Big East Tournament in 2014.

Good luck in Atlanta from all at GoPlay Sports Tours.

GoPlay Tours Announces Partnership with Charles River Rugby Football Club

GoPlay Tours, a division of ACIS, is pleased to announce its sponsorship of Charles River Rugby Football Club, beginning with the 2017 spring season. “GoPlay Tours is committed to building its brand via engagement with dynamic, forward-thinking organizations.” said Business Development Manager Marc Amigone, “As the only Boston-based rugby club with both men’s and women’s sides, Charles River is uniquely positioned to be effective brand ambassadors for the company. We look forward to helping them build on the club’s over 40-year legacy; and as they take rugby’s message of teamwork, inclusivity, and community to new frontiers.”

“We are excited and proud to have GoPlay Tours onboard as a corporate sponsor for Charles River,” said Alex Zadel, Charles River Women’s President. “Whenever you have a company that wants to affiliate its brand with your club it serves as a testament to both the value of what has been built and also the faith that members of the business community have that they will be well-represented on and off the field. We look forward to marking this as the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship.”

Founded in 1973, the Charles River Rugby Football Club, affectionately dubbed “The Rats”, was formed by a group of rugby players from Tufts University and the Boston Rugby Football Club. In striking green and orange jerseys that quickly became the club’s trademark, the Rats achieved many early successes, including winning the Portland RFC Invitational and advancing to the Annual New England Tournament semifinals. The Rats continued to attract new players and build on each year’s accomplishments over the next decade, thus solidifying themselves as a fixture in the New England rugby community.

In 2005, the Rats added to their pack with the formation of their Charles River Women’s team. Since their founding, the Lady Rats have grown quickly over their first decade, gathering new players and skill, while keeping the same “serious but don’t take ourselves too seriously” River mantra. The ladies advanced to the USA Rugby playoffs in 2014 and 2015, finishing in the top 16 in the country in 2015.

Charles River Rugby Football Club is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization.

Follow the Rats online

Visit the club Website – http://charlesriverrugby.com/

Follow them on Instagram
Women’s Team – @CRWRFC
Men’s team – @CharlesRiverRugby

Follow them on Twitter
Men’s team – https://twitter.com/CharlesRiverRFC
Women’s team – https://twitter.com/CRWRFC

Like them on Facebook
Men’s team – https://www.facebook.com/CharlesRiverRugby
Women’s team – https://www.facebook.com/CharlesRiverWomensRugbyFootballClub

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NSCAA Convention 2017: An Uber with a heavyweight boxer, meeting a Hypersexual Electrosoul band

An Uber with a heavyweight boxer, a meeting with a Hypersexual Electrosoul band, a chat with an England legend and sightings of various other soccer stars, including past and present USMNT coaches – it could only be in Los Angeles.

GoPlay Tours made their third trip to the NSCAA Convention earlier this month and on the vibrant West Coast of America it did not disappoint with chance meetings, established connections and new contacts all pointing to our most successful trip to date.

The LA Convention Centre in Downtown provided the perfect venue, and forget the scaremongering from soccer’s East Coast, because people came, saw, connected and were inspired.

Usually an East Coast event, there were fears LA would fall flat on it’s face, but LA delivered. 2017 provided the annual soccer coaching get together with their second highest attendance in the event’s 71-year history. Only last year’s Baltimore jamboree topped the estimated 10,500 attendance.

Over 6,500 coaches came saw, connected and learnt more about the beautiful game and GoPlay loved every minute chatting to MLS first-round draft picks Miles Robinson and Julian Gressel to congratulating the All-American kids on Saturday afternoon.

GoPlay’s annual launch party on Wednesday night was ideally located at Tom’s Urban – a haunt the majority of the convention attendees got to know well by the end of the weekend. Almost 200 guests joined us for free drinks with ACIS President Peter Jones addressing the noisy crowd with his plans for 2017 and beyond.

Our new partnership with Celtic’s International Soccer Academy was announced and our guest was the Hoops’ NSCAA star clinician Willie McNab, who had an early start on Thursday presenting a session on the ‘Celtic FC Way’.

We also ventured into sponsorship of the annual Saturday night coaches 4×4, which went off without a hitch, bar an odd broken hoarding or so.

But it will be our chance meetings and valued connections which we will take away from LA.

Meanwhile, an opportunity to mix with the Hollywood uber-cools was too good a chance to pass up and GoPlay headed to west Hollywood’s Soho House.


The private members club did not disappoint with a venue overlooking Sunset Boulevard and while they might have recently rejected Kobe Bryant – the door staff were only to happy to allow GoPlay’s English, Irish and American contingent.

There is no photography in this place to protect the place’s vibrant crowd.

Famous England striker Lineker was hanging out and after a brief chat the BBC soccer presenter wished us well – our cue to leave him alone. A short, but polite chat, which will be more memorable to us than him.


We also came across 260lbs heavyweight boxer Johnny Rice via an Uber ride home. A man who recently sparred with Dominic Breazeale, Rice was an engaging host on the way back to Downtown. Eloquent and confident the big man told us how he feared nobody and that undefeated UK star Anthony Joshua was no match for himself.

We wrapped the night up with our 12th burrito of the weekend – there’s no denying the Mexican influence in the City of Angels. And after bringing down the curtain on another convention we headed to Santa Monica.

A walk along to Venice Beach was capped off by a Blue Moon or two at Ye Olde Kings Head and there we bumped into a couple from the band Low Country Kingdom. Who you might say? Well with some luck these guys are going to be big – they deserve it after accepting our hospitality.


After four days of soccer, soccer, soccer it was a refreshing chance to not talk shop and these electrosoul dudes were great company. Let’s hope they don’t forget us when they’ve made it big – we certainly won’t.

Thanks LA. It was a blast and we look forward to doing the same in Philly in 2018.

GoPlay Tours Elite Tournaments Partnership

GoPlay Sports Tours and Elite Tournaments Announce New Partnership

We are pleased to announce that GoPlay Sports Tours is now the exclusive International Travel Partner of Elite Tournaments. Elite Tournaments is an event management firm that facilitates youth sporting tournaments around the country. Their mission is to provide professionalism to youth and adult sporting events through organizational efficiency, specialized management, and operational proficiency.

Founded in 2000 as a small family business, Elite Tournaments has organized countless youth soccer events for numerous different clubs, colleges and international and professional organizations. The company oversees more than 55 tournaments a year across the United States. Elite Tournaments’ staff includes former high school and college coaches, referees and standout players whose own experiences inform the company’s professional approach to event management. Elite Tournaments prides itself on organization and communication with tournament stakeholders in order to create successful events and lasting relationships.

In addition to their normal tournament schedule, Elite Tournaments will be running the NSCAA College Showcase- LA at the Silverlakes Complex in Norco, CA in conjunction with the 2017 NSCAA Convention.

We firmly believe that travel changes lives, and our mission at GoPlay Sports Tours is to offer travel opportunities to as many people as possible. This partnership will allow us to continuously increase our outreach and help us fulfill the dreams of those who wish to travel.

With the GoPlay Sports Tours and Elite Tournaments partnership, we hope to expand the horizons of U.S. soccer by incorporating our global connections. We look forward to many years of a prosperous relationship.

Please visit www.elitetournaments.com for more information about Elite and see how they run the best tournaments in the country. Click on their Contact Us page if you are interested in having Elite run one of your tournaments!


Phelan comments more damaging than Snodgrass dive

Robert Snodgrass’ dive on Saturday provoked heavy condemnation, but Hull boss Mike Phelan’s comments were far worse than his player’s actions who was “trying to get out of the way”.

The Scotland international’s cheating was so blatant that it prompted a tweet from the player himself to apologise. Whether it was sincere or just to save his embarrassment is debatable.

But Snodgrass’ dive was so obvious it left Crystal Palace defender Scott Dann fuming and Palace boss Alan Pardew branding it “embarrassing”.

Snodgrass later  admitted “it was never a penalty” – how could he offer any other explanation with Match of the Day and the ensuing analysis looming later that evening?

Snodgrass tweeted: “Apologies from my end, it was never a penalty. But I genuinely thought the defender was going to slide, so I tried to ride the tackle.”

But as misjudged as Snodgrass’ actions were in the heat of battle, Hull boss Phelan’s comments were astounding and a major reason why the English game will struggle to eradicate cheating.

We’re told the Premier League is the best league in the world: it’s honest and there’s no play acting etc. But, hold on. Last week England man Dele Alli won a dubious penalty with a dive and this week Snodgrass – another British player – conned the referee to gain an advantage.

The EPL our kidding themseleves if think cheating doesn’t happen and from British players too. It does, and if they want to stamp it out then football figureheads, like Phelan, need to come clean.

The former Manchester United assistant manager’s comments were dishonest and leave a question mark over the integrity of the game.

“I have dealt with football players all my life, some who are blown over by the wind and some who take massive knocks, but do not got penalties. It will be highlighted. That is the job of pundits, the media,” said Phelan.

“But I shouldn’t think that detracts from an excellent performance; a team performance. We possibly got lucky in that situation and I am sure Crystal Palace were aggrieved by it.

“But I am not going to argue with my player or say anything that will turn his head or make him feel down about it. I need a Robert Snodgrass. He has to get on with his job. He will put up with whatever comes his way. My team, my players and my staff are behind him.”

To claim that Hull “possibly got lucky” underplayed the whole incident, but more importantly it was damaging to the game. To defend his player to the hilt is understandable, but when the integrity of the game is at stake then it’s time to take a step back and show some courage.

Snodgrass’ actions were wrong and should have been quickly condemned. There was no reason to deride his man, who is clearly one of the Tigers’ stars, but he should have been made aware that it cannot be tolerated. A few public words to that effect would have sufficed from Phelan, but instead he insisted the club was behind him.

An intimation that Hull City approve of cheating is surely not what Phelan was trying to portray but that’s pretty much the picture that has been painted.

There can be no retrospective punishment for Snodgrass’ actions. Why in this tech-laden age is bizarre, but that’s another argument. So Snodgrass and Hull have benefitted, not from a refereeing error, but from a piece of cheating, which has been sanctioned by Phelan and the club.

Snodgrass, who accused Sheffield Wednesday’s Fernando Forestieri of ‘cheating’ last season, later tried to explain just why he had dived in the box under Dann’s attempted challenge.

“You feel as if you need to ride the tackle. Probably, when I look at it, it will maybe look worse. But, from my side, I thought the defender was going to come in and slide.

“That is what I was trying to say to him (Dann). I was just trying to get out of the way of his tackle, but he never tackled, so that is probably why it looks bad.”

He was also asked whether he was an honest player.

“Of course, that is what it is all about. I have never been one for going into that position, so that is what I tried to say to the lad.

“I am not that type of player. I said that to him. But, obviously, emotions are running high, he is thinking, ‘Well, I’ve not touched you’. But I am thinking, ‘Obviously, I’m trying to get out the way’. It is up to the referee to make that sort of decision,” added Snodgrass.

To recite the cliched “I’m not that type of player” was an unfortunate oversight from the 29-year-old, just as his dive was at the KC Stadium.

However, the lack of contrition from Phelan, after considering the bigger picture, surely cannot be accepted.

The Football Association are currently coming under attack because of their antiquated structure and the fact their are not representative of the association. Accused of being “elderly white men who do not represent anyone but block even the most minor of changes” they have more on their agenda at the minute, but this is an incident they should be getting involved with.

Reprimanding manager’s for criticising referees pales into insignificance, but surely protecting English football’s integrity should be top of their priorities?

If manager’s are not going to be honest then the FA should step in and remind managers like Phelan of his wider responsibility.

Matthew Briggs