Swansea City strengthens link with North Shore
The Swans took time out from their busy pre-season tour of America to strengthen their links with local soccer club North Shore United.
Manager Garry Monk and coach Kristian O'Leary led a touring party that included Leon Britton, Angel Rangel, Ben Davies and Jay Fulton to visit the ambitious club on the outskirts of Milwaukee.
The Swans first developed a link with North Shore four years ago through Swansea's Supporters Trust Director Huw Cooze.
Since then North Shore, which boasts 1,000 players of both sexes from the age of four to 23, has made two trips to Wales, while Swans Academy coaches have travelled to the States to help run a Swansea City summer soccer camp for the last three years.
The link has strengthened and grown over the years with nearly 1,000 club members making the trip to Miller Park on Wednesday night in Swans shirts to support Monk's men against Chivas Guadalajara.
Roy Thomas is one of the Swans Academy coaches - together with Craig Gill and Bob Jeffrey - currently out in North Shore helping to run the camp. And having coached all across the globe, Thomas was well impressed with the concept.
"We have been coming here to coach for the last three years,'' explained Roy. "We have been showing them the Swansea City way with regards to our coaching and playing philosophies.
"The reception has been fantastic and it really is a great concept. For Swansea to be known in this part of America is very beneficial to the club's own development and the growth of football in the States.
"There were hundreds of people from this area in Swans shirts at the Chivas game on Wednesday night, which was fantastic.
"In return, it's great to see Garry Monk and the players take time out from their pre-season preparations to take a look at what we are doing here and meet the kids and their coaches.
"It's all about inspiration - and that's something you can get from seeing your heroes.''
Swans midfielder Leon Britton was one of those players who was more than impressed with the soccer camp set-up.
"It's been a great day,'' he declared. "The facilities are first class and it looks like a fantastic soccer camp.
"To see so many Swans shirts here shows how far we've come, especially as the kids know so much about the club and the players.
"It highlights how much the club is building and expanding and it's vital to ensure we carry on doing this for the next 10 or 20 years to establish ourselves all over the world.
"Swansea has always been a club close to the community back home and it's important to spend a bit of time with the kids here. It's what this club is all about and it doesn't take much to sign a few autographs, chat and have some pictures.
"I remember when I used to go to the half-term soccer courses at Wimbledon as a kid. When a few of the first team players came down to sign some autographs it would make our week.''
Joe Hammes, Director of Coaching for North Shore United, has been one of the driving forces behind the partnership alongside Huw Cooze.
"As well as having Swansea coaches over here to help us with our summer camp, to have the first team playing in Milwaukee is extra special,'' declared Joe.
"The atmosphere at Miller Park against Chivas was amazing. We had nearly 1,000 club members there and for them to see Swansea play live was a great experience for everyone. It was huge.
"We have seen a gradual increase in the popularity of soccer over the last 10 to 15 years. Together with the USA doing so well in the last World Cup, there is a lot of excitement for the sport in the States.
"The game is definitely growing here and because we are able to see all the Premier League games live on TV, there is a big Swansea City following as well.
"This current partnership is massive and we are really enjoying it. We've made two trips to Swansea and with the coaches coming over here every year they are able to show us their possession-based curriculum.
"We firmly believe that it's a style that will develop us some top players in the future, while the coach education is a big priority for us because we need to keep learning as well.''