|Friday, August 12, 2005|
| Red Carpet|
The team has just returned to our Hopwood Hall dorms to rest for tonight's match with Heywood Town. We spent midday one town over in Rochdale, where we got more of the red-carpet treatment that has been our pleasant fate these past 10 days.
But before we get into that, let me catch you up on what's happened since Wednesday's match with Oldham Town.
Thursday morning found Jack Edwards in rare form during the training session. As I explained in a previous entry, Jack has a real talent for slinging the colorful slang, especially when it comes to humorous insults. So colorful, in fact, that much of it can't be recounted in this journal.
During one drill, the stocky coach grew frustrated when the Swarthmore "lads" failed to catch on quickly. "Numpties," he called them in a quick, winking aside to me. (The term is a new one to my ears, but I know it's not meant to compliment one's intelligence.) During a break, Jack waxed philosophical on the difference between soccer and other major American sports, which are partly defined by their precise and voluminous statistics. Soccer has few stats to keep, and Jack has no time for them anyway. "How many beans are there in a can of beans?" he said to the team, mocking the stats-obsessed American sports mentality. "Who gives a [expletive]?"
The next drill likewise started in a somewhat confused state, and Jack feigned exasperation, this time more tongue-in-cheek than serious. "Is this a teddy bear picnic?" He gazed at the sky, as if imploring God, and asked, "What have I done" The players couldn't help but chuckle. Then a guy missed an easy shot at the goal mouth. "This is where you walk to the box office and ask for your money back," Jack observed.
The lads picked up the pace, thankfully. "Nice strike, son," Jack said when Darren Johnson knocked one in.
The team members seem to take Jack and his personality in good humor. "Jack Edwards? I love him. He's a great guy," Brandon Washington told me later.
After training, we boarded the bus - Steve, our driver, showed up in a Swarthmore soccer shirt for the day's journey - and drove about an hour west to Liverpool to visit the Beatles Museum and Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC. Our group has been the item of much curiosity since we arrived in this area, north of Manchester, a week ago. So it was on Thursday, too. Andy Hargreaves, a friend of Jack's (who isn't a friend of Jack's?) and the host of a local radio program, joined us on the bus and conducted an interview with several of us. Patrick Christmas, Eric, and I answered his questions about Swarthmore, American soccer, and our tour of England. He also brought for us a copy of a local newspaper that carried a report on last Sunday's match with Heywood Reform. The headline: "Yanks are just doodle dandy."
I sat for a while with Brandon during the ride to get his take on the trip and the upcoming season. "B-Wash" is not only a fleet and skillful midfielder but a young man with an artistic bent. He performed and choreographed last year for the popular campus dance group Rhythm N Motion; this year, the sophomore is going to serve as artistic director of the group.
Brandon told me he chose Swarthmore because he wanted a small college, and when it came to academics, "I didn't want to take the easy way out." During his campus visit as a prospective, he stayed with Paul Thibodeau '06 - who, like Brandon, went to Greenhill School in Dallas - and I fell in love with the school almost immediately." The sophomore is leaning toward economics as his major. His favorite class last year: cognitive science, taught by linguistics professor David Harrison.
The England tour, Brandon said, has helped bring team members closer. "For our team cohesion, it's been great. We've been thrown together, dealing with each other constantly on and off the field, and there really hasn't been any friction. A lot of laughs, though. That's how we get by."
Like many on the team, Brandon is looking at the upcoming season as an opportunity to prove that last year's success was no "one-off," as our new Brit friends would term it. As many of you know, Swarthmore made the Centennial Conference playoffs for the first time ever and, after getting an invitation to the ECAC post-season tournament, battled its way to the final of that competition.
"The thing about last season is that we surprised even ourselves," Brandon said. "Now that we know what we're capable of, we want to take the next step and do even better."
After this morning's training, we boarded the bus and made the quick journey to Rochdale, the home of a historic town hall built in the 19th century in the Gothic revival style. From a distance, it looks like one of those vintage cathedrals you see across Europe and England, but its purpose is, and always has been, purely secular since its completion in 1871.
We walked in and found ourselves in the large "exchange" room with vaulted ceilings and columns decorated with oak, maple, and ivy leaves made of stone. We were then led to the reception room, where the "Mayoress," Beryl Wright, greeted us and shook each student's hand as he walked past in the line. Murals high on the wall of this room celebrate the region's history as a wool- and cotton-spinning region, depicting the advance of spinning technology from its ancient beginnings in Egypt. "Welcome," the 77-year-old Mayoress said, "to the most beautiful town hall in England."
She asked questions about the team's tour and told us about her uncle who played soccer for the English national team. "I can't wish you good luck for the matches you're playing," she said with a smile, "because I want our teams to win." Fair enough. She gave us a quick lesson on the massive, dazzling chain she was wearing, made of gold and adorned by no less than 92 diamonds and 34 amethysts in addition to assorted rubies, opals, and sapphires. It is only worn by the Mayoress on special occasions and can never leave the hall.
We were then treated to a delicious lunch buffet in the room. As the Mayoress and team waited for the tour to begin, Steve St. Vincent started juggling oranges with impressive skill, which captured his teammates' and Ms. Wright's attention. It turned into something of an impromptu talent show then, with B-Wash getting up and demonstrating a couple of his dance moves for her. Then it was on to the town hall tour.
It was beginning to rain as I stepped out to take photos of the town hall exterior - the first bad weather we've had on the trip. It's looking as though it might be damp and chilly on the field tonight when the team takes on Heywood Town FC, the fourth match of the tour. Not good. Then again, we've been lucky with the uncharacteristically fine weather so far. We're here to experience the culture, right? What's a trip to England without a little "football" in the rain?
|Friday August 12, 2005 posted by Tom Krattenmaker @ 8:54 AM|
About This Site
In August 2005, the Swarthmore College men's soccer team embarked on England Tour 2005. Their mission: Play matches against English teams, spread good will, take in the sights, attend a professional match or two, learn about English culture, and, well, have fun. Follow their progress at this special web site, written by Tom Krattenmaker, director of news and information, who is traveling with the team.
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England Tour 2005 Itinerary