TranmereRovers.co.uk recently sat down with Matt Hunter and Dan O’Donnell, who are both currently away in the USA, to discuss their roles at the Club and why they are currently across the pond…
What is your job role at Tranmere Rovers FC / International Sports Academy (ISA) and how long have you been in this particular role?
Dan: My name’s Dan O’Donnell and I’m the Technical Director of the International desk at Tranmere Rovers.
Matt: My name’s Matt Hunter and I’m both the International Recruitment Manager at Tranmere Rovers and a development coach for the ISA.
The two of us both started at Tranmere Rovers in November 2016 on the project in China.
Can you give us a bit of background about the ISA and the link to Tranmere Rovers FC?
Matt: Tranmere Rovers FC is home to the ISA. Two years ago, we started our partnership with the Inner Mongolian government in China which involved sending coaches out to the country to coach Chinese juniors’ football but also involved coaches from Inner Mongolia coming to Tranmere Rovers to further their coach education through ourselves and the FA.
The success we have had on both the outbound and inbound fronts has been brilliant but for us, it makes more sense to have coaches and players come to us rather than the other way around.
That’s where the ISA fits in. Using our previous experience of delivering quality inbound courses, our superb training facility and our brilliant professionals in all areas of the sport, we’re able to offer elite training programmes held at Tranmere Rovers through the ISA for the US soccer market and other countries around the world including Australia, Indonesia and Brazil.
We also offer British football experience programmes which allows individuals to truly immerse themselves in the game of football in the UK.
You are particularly keen to recruit American College students for your January 2019 ISA course, what is the reason behind this?
Dan: The January 2019 course is the first course to be tailored for the American market. Given the structure of the American College Soccer season, we have identified this January (and June) as the perfect window of opportunity for players from US Colleges to come to our ISA and become more developed as a player and experience our culture.
They don’t necessarily get the chance to do in the U.S.A. We have had a lot of interest from colleges all around the States, which is why the two of us are on this 4500-mile road trip!
Can you give us a bit of an insight into how the course will be structured and what students will gain from this?
Dan: The course is based on our proven track record of player development here at Tranmere. The programme will therefore be bespoke to suit each individual. The coaches we are speaking to will give us an insight into what they want their players to achieve from the programmes and that, on top of our own assessments, will be factored in to how we structure each course.
The January 2019 course is a 2-week training programme however, our summer programmes range from two weeks to one month. Accommodated alongside the football training, players will develop more of an understanding into other disciplines of football regarding nutrition, sports science and how we use GPS tracking data, psychology insight, strength and conditioning programme.
The courses at the ISA are a great way to experience a quality, more rounded approach to player development, which players may not have had in the past.
The facilities at the Campus are state-of-the-art, can you give us a bit of an insight into what the set-up is like there?
Matt: The facilities are first class. The grass used on the pitches is the same as what is put down at Wembley Stadium and Premier League clubs such as Manchester United which provides perfect preparation for our first team, academy teams and college. It has a new state-of-the-art gym, excellent classrooms, a great canteen with a brilliant chef and there are future plans to add an artificial pitch which will take the place up another level. The training ground is to the standard of a Championship side and we can’t wait to showcase it to the players coming from overseas!
Where will the students be staying for the duration of the course and will they have a chance to soak up some of the local sites in Liverpool City Centre?
Matt: The players and students will be staying at accommodation in Liverpool with the walk to the city centre taking just 10 minutes. They each have their own room with an attached en-suite bathroom. Part of the attraction that our ISA has is that not only will players get the experience of training and living at a professional football club in the North West of England, but they’ll also be able to embrace the British culture and what better place to do that than in Liverpool! The city has phenomenal sporting history with Liverpool FC and Everton FC and is the home of the Beatles and other famous musical sensations. There is something for everyone and this will just add to the unique experience that players coming to our ISA will enjoy.
Based upon your own background in football/soccer, what would you say is the biggest benefit of signing up to a course like the ISA’s?
Dan: The ISA is an elite and safe environment to develop yourself as a football player. Personally, I think the biggest benefit is that you get to experience the full operations of a professional football club in the UK and will find yourself training alongside our first team, our academy and Liverpool Women’s first team! If someone came to me as a coach with this opportunity, then I’d be urging my players to go for it!
Matt: Our ISA will make you a better football player, but it will also tell you a lot about yourself. Players will really start to get an idea of whether they can make it as a professional and that realisation alongside the unique experience that each individual will have, makes the ISA a fantastic opportunity and we can’t wait to get started early next year.
To keep up to date with the ISA, you can follow their social media channels:
Instagram : @isatrfc