Brits Abroad - The Tour Diary
As the Swans set up camp in America ahead of the new Premier League campaign, leading from the front yet again will be influential club captain Leon Britton.
And the long-serving fans favourite will be keeping supporters up-to-date with an exclusive look behind the Stateside scenes in Philadelphia and North Carolina courtesy of his personal tour diary.
Monday night saw a group of us attend a special film screening of Jack to a King at a local theatre in Cary, organised by North Carolina FC, our friendly opponents on Saturday night.
There was a good turnout of local football fans there to watch the film, which they said they thoroughly enjoyed.
Accompanying me on the trip was Angel Rangel, Roque Mesa, Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer, goalkeeping coach Tony Roberts, COO Chris Pearlman, physio Kate Rees and my new best friend Tom Carroll.
And, of course, not forgetting our kit lady Sue Eames who I think featured more than anyone throughout the duration of the film.
After the screening we had a meet and greet with everyone in the theatre, signing autographs and pictures. I think Sue was in demand more than us and Roque now calls her 'The Star' in his broken English.
Tuesday was tough with a double training session, but at least there was some light relief in the evening with our annual tour quiz organised by quizmaster Kate and her unglamorous assistant Eddie Lattimore.
The tour party was split into 10 teams. And I have to say that my team of midfielders won a prize - for coming last!
I’ve asked for a stewards enquiry because I wasn’t happy with the count which originally named the wingers’ team of Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer, Mo Barrow, Luciano Narsingh and Jefferson Montero as coming bottom.
But as soon as Wayne asked for a recount they mysteriously jumped up a place in the rankings and left my midfield team of Roque Mesa, Leroy Fer, Jay Fulton and Tom Carroll bottom of the pile.
I think there was a bit of favouritism going on because who just happened to finish first? Only the club’s COO Chris Pearlman with his team of Jordan Smith (sports science), Jonathan Wilsher and James Snaith (media).
How we finished bottom, I really don’t know after I heard some of the answers from the other teams.
For example, Baby Jeff Montero thought the Philippines had won the most cricket World Cups and Cardiff was the capital of North Carolina.
And boss Paul Clement had to shake his head in disbelief at Claude Makelele when he failed to name one player who had won both the World Cup and the Champions League in the same year.
When one of those players was named as Christian Karembeu (France and Real Madrid), Claude revealed he should have known the answer as he had shared a room with him for four years!
Now, I know I have been going on a lot about my roomie Tom Carroll in these diaries, but I really am glad to have him when I hear some of the stories about the snorers in the squad.
Angel Rangel looked a bit bleary-eyed the first morning of the tour after discovering his new Spanish roommate Roque Mesa liked a snore (must be the moustache tickling his nose).
Luckily for him he still had some ear plugs in his bag that were given out on the plane from Heathrow. They are now his prized possession and go in every night as a priority.
I’ve heard club chef, Chris Watkins, is also a loud one, but apparently neither Chris or Roque are the biggest snorers in the camp.
That honour goes to Leroy Fer. Wow, now according to his roommate Luciano Narsingh, he’s ridiculously loud. So loud, in fact, that Luchiano has officially become his his ex-roommate because he had to move out after his desperate pleas for his own room were granted by the boss.
We played our second friendly of the tour against Richmond Kickers of the United Soccer League, the third tier in the US pyramid system, in midweek.
They beat us there last year 2-0, but I wasn’t on that tour. This time though we turned the result around with goals from Oli McBurnie (penalty) and the first in a Swans shirt for new signing Tammy Abraham on his debut.
Again, the heat was unbearable. There was a mad panic when we got there for the staff and players to get hats and suncream in place as the substitutes bench was out in the open under the glaring sun.
The boys found it really tough in the first-half and had to stop for a water break and some cold, wet towels.
That team played for 60 minutes before the gaffer rang the changes with a completely new 11 players for the final 20 or 30 minutes.
It was nice to get the win after a long day which started with a three-hour coach ride to the game and back; returning to the hotel at about 2am.
We still took time out to sign autographs and selfies after the game for the large number of fans, many of them sporting Swans colours, that had stayed behind.
The only negative to come from the game was a yellow card for my roommate Tom Carroll for pulling someone’s shirt, which was actually the only booking in the game.
I had to have a quiet word with him back in our hotel room about his behaviour, which was not acceptable for my roomie. He begged for forgiveness and once he had completed his 100 lines - ‘I must be a good boy’ - we moved on.
As we got back so late after the game, we had a bit of free time on the Thursday morning and me and Tom took the opportunity to grab a taxi to a nearby mall to buy the kids some presents.
Then it was an open training session in the evening where the local fans were invited to attend, including the kids from the local Joma Soccer Academy, who had enjoyed a visit from goalkeeping coach Tony Roberts and Claude Makelele earlier in the day.
Tony said he did all the coaching work, while Claude spent the afternoon signing autographs and having selfies for his adoring fans.
The day ended with a BBQ hosted by the Welsh Government who were looking to raise the profile of Wales in the States.
The event, which was attended by an array of North Carolina-based businesses, was a big success and it’s not hard to see why the area is known for its legendary barbecue joints.
Even our club chef was smiling, which is rare. But that was probably to do with the fact that he had free beer and a night off from overseeing the kitchen.
We are now preparing for tonight’s final friendly against North Carolina, so I will try and squeeze a final diary piece in before we leave, although it won’t be as long as this one. Sorry.