Blues sharing their American dream as English invade

Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder will relish facing former club

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It was the pre-season tour from hell.

But 12 months later Pompey are back in America.

What’s more, seven other English clubs have followed suit this month as the clamour to cross the Atlantic steps up.

The States is rapidly emerging as one of the most popular pre-season destinations.

The likes of Manchester United, Everton, Bolton, Newcastle, Manchester City and West Brom have all booked trips.

The attraction is not merely restricted to the Premier League’s finest, either.

League Two Oxford United are currently half way through a two-match tour to New Hampshire and Boston.

Pompey are certainly in good company then.

Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Steve Cotterill’s men have 12 days to utilise American facilities, which are now widely regarded as some of the finest outside of England.

Tomorrow night they face the first of two friendlies in the form of a Charleston Battery XI.

It will be a side consisting of Battery squad members and players from Charleston college in a fixture, with access solely to Pompey fans (6.30pm).

They then take on USL professional division side Charleston Battery themselves on July 27 – 24 hours before the tour ends.

It is a pre-season almost exclusively funded through sponsorship from the American end.

And, for Cotterill, it represents the best possible pre-season destination.

He said: ‘The facilities in America have stepped up immensely.

‘What’s more, it is a growing sport over here and what happens is the profile of the English clubs helps raise it.

‘Therefore, there is always an allowance that goes towards your trip because they want to promote soccer in the US.

‘We could have paid the same amount and ended up in Europe.

‘Instead, a fair bit of the tour is subsidised by our American hosts, for which we are very, very thankful for.

‘We are seeing more and more clubs coming over here in the pre-season.

‘The thing is, this place is that big we will never end up bumping into each other so won’t affect each others’ gates either.

‘You have just got to be careful that you don’t end up being in the situation like we were last year where we were basically in America and Canada and it becomes unrealistic.

‘But over here the sport is really taking off and for that reason the facilities are new and very, very good.’

After arriving in Charleston late on Sunday evening, Pompey began training on Monday.

That was followed by two training sessions yesterday as the build-up begins to tomorrow’s first friendly.

Elsewhere, Bolton, Manchester City and Everton are touring north America.

Manchester United are midway through a five-match tour, taking in Boston, Seattle, Washington, New York and Chicago.

In addition, West Brom defeated a certain Ventura Fusion 4-2 at the weekend – a team Pompey lined-up against last year.

The very mention of what occurred 12 months ago still makes Cotterill shudder.

But he is delighted with how things are currently panning out during the latest trip to the States.

He added: ‘Everything has been good so far.

‘We had a real good flight out, and although the three-and-a-half hour coach ride from the airport was a long journey on top of the flight, we got here safe and sound.

‘Tomorrow we’ve got a game against a select Charleston side which includes a few from the college side as well.

‘The reason we have stayed local is that because this is such a big country we didn’t want to travel for another four hours.

‘You could travel four hours, play, stay overnight and then travel four hours back.

‘That would have interrupted a lot of our training time and we don’t want to do that.

‘We are really happy with our fitness levels and the result of that was against Chelsea, when we more than matched them and could easily have won the game.

‘I have obviously had a bit of help organising this trip.

‘But more or less coming here, the destination and lack of travel is something I wanted so we could get good training time.

‘Watching them against Chelsea, I can already see we are way ahead of where we were this time last year.’