The goals are simple, if lofty: Network with several of England’s top soccer clubs, inform them about Republic FC’s ambitious plans that include moving to Major League Soccer and build a potential pipeline to some of Europe’s best young talent.
Graham Smith, Republic FC’s director of football, and Paul Buckle, Sacramento’s coach and technical director, leave Tuesday for a 13-day trip to Great Britain.
They plan to meet with officials of a number of top professional clubs, including the English Premier League’s Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Southampton. And one of the biggest personal highlights for Smith and Buckle will be a sitdown with former Manchester United icon Sir Alex Ferguson at his home that is tentatively set for Nov. 11.
“We want to enhance our reputation, put our club on the map, and bring in some quality players from overseas to join the ones we have,” Buckle said. “We’re also going to look at how we can improve our academy program by observing some of the world’s best.”
Smith and Buckle, who were born and raised in England, will use their old connections to build new ones, too.
Both had distinguished playing and coaching careers in England, and Smith once served on the board of directors of Chelsea.
One of their stops will be at Colchester United, where both played and Smith, a former goalkeeper, is in the club’s hall of fame.
Buckle is looking forward to again picking the brain of Ferguson, one of the world’s most accomplished managers. The Scotsman led Manchester United to 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two UEFA Champions League titles before retiring in 2013. Buckle already met for two hours with him in New York last month.
“He’s perhaps the greatest manager in the history of the game, so it amazed me that he knew where I was coaching,” Buckle said. “He asked me a lot of questions about Sacramento. You could see he does his homework.”
Buckle said Ferguson talked a lot about how he managed players.
“He shared with me some great leadership tips and talked at length about his philosophy,” Buckle said. “It was a brilliant experience.”
Buckle also is looking forward to his visit to Liverpool, where Alex Inglethorpe coaches the club’s academy program. They coached together at Exeter City in 2005. Buckle also has ties to Matt Hale, the director of the Southampton FC Academy program considered among one of the world’s 10 best.
Smith and Buckle will look at a handful of prospects who will compete in the Nov. 7 FA Cup, English football’s historic knockout tournament. They also will meet with club officials at Queen’s Park Rangers and Fulham.
Smith and Buckle already have been busy scouting and meeting with prospects and their agents.
They are spending this weekend checking out players at the first of Republic FC’s four open tryouts at Cosumnes River College. They spent five days earlier in the week in Mexico assessing prospects in Torreon and Matzalan. The week before, they checked out several college prospects during matches between Sacramento State and Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo; and Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara.
“It was really worthwhile, and I got to meet with the head coaches,” Buckle said. “It’s important for us to establish those relationships.”
England tour schedule
Here is the itinerary for Republic FC director of football Graham Smith and coach and technical director Paul Buckle.
Tuesday – Depart for United Kingdom
Wednesday – Arrive in UK; meet with Crystal Palace Co-Chairman Steve Parish in Central London
Thursday – Attend Fulham FC training
Friday – Meet and attend training with Queens Park Rangers FC
Saturday, Nov. 7 – Scout Southampton FC vs. Reading FC U-18 Match (at Reading); attend FA Cup in afternoon
Sunday, Nov. 8 – Liverpool FC vs. Crystal Palace (at Anfield) match; meet with Liverpool FC Academy director Alex Inglethorpe
Monday-Tuesday, Nov. 9-10 – Visit with Liverpool FC Academy and staff
Wednesday, Nov. 11 – Visit with Sir Alex Ferguson (tentative)
Thursday, Nov. 12 – Visit with Southampton FC
Friday, Nov. 13 – Meet with Colchester United FC executive chairman Robbie Cowling and vice chairman Richard Cowling
Saturday, Nov. 14 – Colchester United FC vs. Coventry City FC (at Colchester) match
Sunday, Nov. 15 – Return home