Harry Williams and Daniel Trickett-Smith are 20-year-old Englishmen far from home for the first time while playing for Republic FC.
They are adapting to Sacramento’s summer heat while juggling the nuances of a different culture. Both have endured frustrating injuries.
Both also have learned to develop new skills beyond soccer.
“When Harry first got here, I had to show him how to use the washing machine, the dryer, the iron, even the freaking oven so he could learn how to cook,” said teammate Mackenzie Pridham, Williams’ roommate. “At the beginning, he’d just eat frozen microwavable meals. Now he knows how to do it all. He can play a little chef, too.”
Although Williams, a forward, played professionally in England, it was for Cheltenham Town FC, his hometown team.
“I lived at home, so my mom and dad did all of the cooking,” Williams said.
Trickett-Smith, a midfielder, lived away from home when at 16 he signed with the Liverpool FC Academy. But the midfielder stayed with an older brother who did most of the cooking, and the academy was only an hour from his hometown.
“So when I needed my washing done, I’d just go home to Mom and Dad,” he said. “I’d visit home at least once a week to see my family and friends. It’s a lot different now. It’s a 12-hour plane flight (nonstop).”
Having grown up playing in summer temperatures usually in the 60s, Williams and Trickett-Smith said they are getting used to the valley heat.
“I feel like I’ve adjusted, though it’s still a lot different than in England,” Williams said. “When I was at my old club, I never got into shorts and T-shirts while training.”
Republic FC coach Paul Buckle and director of football Graham Smith, who recruited the duo, are English natives who understand some of the challenges the young players face being so far from home.
“We tried to prepare them for the Sacramento summers, the different cultural ways and how football is received by the fans and their fellow playing colleagues in the U.S.,” Smith said. “We do that with all our players from foreign countries and even from other areas of the United States. That’s the wonderful thing about soccer. It’s a patchwork quilt of different cultures.”
Most of the players also are neighbors, housed in two apartment complexes in Elk Grove, not far from Republic FC’s training facilities at Cosumnes River College. Buckle said that arrangement helps the players build camaraderie while blunting some of the natural homesickness.
“The way we house them is brilliant,” Buckle said. “There are other players around them dealing with some of the same problems. They don’t have family nearby, so they are dependent on their teammates. We’ve got a great group of players who all chip in to help, and that’s the strength of Sacramento Republic.”
Pridham said there is a welcoming, friendly atmosphere throughout the club and even in the community.
“Obviously for guys like Harry and Daniel, who are away from home for the first time, they’re going to get homesick,” Pridham said. “But the guys on the team, the club and the fans have made it an easy environment for them in which to feel comfortable. Harry will FaceTime or Skype with his family a couple of times a week to stay in touch.”
Trickett-Smith said technology does wonders to help soften thoughts of what he might be missing in England.
“I manage to speak to my family most days on WhatsApp, and I also FaceTime them a lot,” he said. “But I do get homesick a little sometimes.”
He rooms with rookie midfielder Chase Minter, a Texas native and former Cal Poly star who signed with Republic FC at the start of the season.
“I don’t know anywhere or anything in Elk Grove,” Trickett-Smith said. “He’s shown me all the places to eat and the shops. He drives, which I don’t, so that helps a lot. He drives me to practice every morning.”
One of the more frequent eating establishments for the Englishmen in Elk Grove is Chipotle Mexican Grill, which also can be found back home in London.
Williams has an older mentor in the 25-year-old Pridham, who sometimes will bellow, “Daddy’s home,” when he walks into their apartment. Pridham was born in Canada, raised in the Bay Area, graduated from Cal Poly and also has played professionally in Minneapolis and Vancouver.
“Mackenzie’s a great roommate,” Williams said. “It’s good for me to have someone like that to live with the first time away from home. I don’t know how it would be if I was living with Dan. That probably wouldn’t have been the best move.”
Still, Trickett-Smith spends a lot of time at Williams’ apartment.
They never had met in England, although Trickett-Smith knew of Williams because some of his Liverpool Academy teammates played on loan with Williams at Cheltenham Town FC.
But Williams and Trickett-Smith have become fast friends – and intense competitors.
“They have become like two peas in a pod,” Pridham said. “They enjoy playing FIFA (video game) together. At the beginning, Daniel would smash Harry every time, and Harry would lose it, quit the game and throw a tantrum. Then Harry found his groove, and the battles are pretty even now. They go back and forth, but now Daniel gets his butt spanked at times.”
Buckle thinks both could be massive talents as they gain more experience. Both already have contributed in key Republic FC wins or draws this season.
Williams has scored in wins against the LA Galaxy II on May 7 in Carson and the Seattle Sounders 2 on July 2 at Bonney Field. Trickett-Smith came off the bench in the second half to score in the 81st minute to rally Republic FC to a 2-2 draw with the Galaxy on June 4 at Bonney Field. Trickett-Smith and Williams also scored in a 2-2 draw against Trickett-Smith’s old team, the Liverpool U-21s, in a friendly May 25 in Reno.
“I’m very pleased with them,” Buckle said. “They are definitely pulling their weight now, but they are definitely ones for the future.”
Both said they have no regrets about their decisions to come to Sacramento. A groin injury, however, has sidelined Trickett-Smith for more than a month.
“It has been a nightmare,” Trickett-Smith said of the injury. But he added, “I’m happy here, and I think (Republic FC is) happy with me.”
Williams said he has grown up a lot since leaving England.
“The move definitely has changed me, both as a person as well as a player,” he said. “I’m loving it here. California is the life, and hopefully we can get the championship at the end of the season. I couldn’t think of many better places to be training and playing football. I’m very fortunate.”