Bright eyed and bushy tailed for breakfast, we met in the lobby for our last full English meal in Manchester. Afterwards, we repacked our bags, loaded the bus, and made our way London, but not before we stopped at St. George’s Park for a tour.
With construction finishing in 2012, it took 18 months for the entire project, including the on-site Hilton Hotel to be completed. This world-class training center is the home of England’s 28 national teams, spanning 330 acres across the Staffordshire countryside. This mult-million complex has hosted many world class teams such as Manchester United, Barcelona, and Ajax. Here, they can use the outstanding pitches, sport science facilities, and stay at the Hilton hotel which is right on site. They have several world-class facilities that include a gym, pool, and even an underwater treadmill. We got to see them all, and even got to sit in the dressing room of the English national team. After exiting the dressing room, we saw their wall full of autographs from players that have trained there. This includes former and current players, but also world-class superstars like Messi. There were over 50 other autographs from players such as David Beckham, Radamel Falcao, and Andres Iniesta.
There are 13 outdoor pitches including the Sir Bobby Charlton Wembley replica pitch. This is a hybrid pitch that costs a million pounds that’re artificial and grass stitched. Their indoor pitch is considered one of the flattest in the world – being checked by the FA every year. We left St. George’s Park more than impressed.
After St. George’s Park we had lunch, and then made our way to London. It was a long ride, but we got to enjoy a brief view of Windsor Castle. Once we arrived at Cheswick’s Clayton Hotel, Swansea’s very own team were leaving for their match against QPR. We got to see them board their own bus, and just a couple hours later we got to see them beat QPR away from home, 3-1.
This was a Championship match, which is one level below the Premier league, being played at Loftus Road – just a 20 minute ride from our hotel. Both sides have been in the Premier League and are now competing to see who can make back up. All our players and staff were completely engaged in the match, as the atmosphere was incredible. We could hear the Swansea away fans singing from outside the stadium, and we could hear them singing the entire match. It might’ve been because they were in the lead most of the game, but the Swansea traveling fans never let up their cheers and supported their team with a passion and enthusiasm that can’t be rivaled anywhere inside an MLS game. This was truly a special experience for our players, as they got to see a club play not just for themselves, but for their brilliant fans. Their win didn’t just look like a team effort, it was a genuine club effort.
The songs, the cheers, applause, and even the displeasure were some of the loudest we’ve heard in a stadium, and it wasn’t at capacity. It showed us how passionate the club’s supporters are, and how football is intertwined with their identity. Everyone had such a great time, and we couldn’t be happier that we got to experience such a fantastic atmosphere.
After the game, we made our way back to Clayton Hotel to get some rest. It was a day full of travel and football, and we can’t wait for more.