The USF Soccer Stadium had a distinctly international vibe Wednesday as it hosted a training session for the Bolton Wanderers Football Club.
Bolton, which plays in the English Premier League, was on campus training in preparation for an exhibition match against FC Tampa at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg tonight.
Bolton manager Owen Coyle, who said he regularly vacations in Florida, was impressed by everything USF has to offer.
“(The team) is very much enjoying their time here,” he said. “The people are so friendly, so hospitable. I think the facilities are second to none. I think you only have to come through the gates to see the impression it makes on you. The staff and everybody involved have gone out of their way to make it comfortable for us and I can’t praise them high enough. You can say the soccer or Athletics building is nice, but if you look at every part of the campus, it’s just fantastic and it’s a credit to the University.”
USF men’s soccer coach George Kiefer and a few Bulls athletes looked on as Bolton went through a two-hour training session.
“It’s great (to have Bolton here),” Kiefer said. “They looked at a lot of different places to train and it just shows the type of facilities we have here. These are highly paid players, you want to be careful where you put them.”
Kiefer said seeing the Wanderers’ work ethic firsthand might even have a positive impact on his young players.
“It’s good to come out and see the standard,” he said. “It’s 100 degrees out and (Coyle) is getting after it. The guys from top to bottom are putting the work in, so for our USF players to see – you know, sometimes they see these guys on television and you don’t see them putting the work in like this, so this is a real benefit to the program.”
Bolton’s travel roster includes players from England, Hungary, Iceland, Bulgaria, Jamaica, Croatia, Finland, Wales, South Korea and even one from America – Stuart Holden.
Holden has made 27 international appearances for the United States national team, including playing against England at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. He is preparing for his second full season with Bolton after transferring from the Houston Dynamo.
Due to an ACL injury suffered in a game against Manchester United in March, Holden spent his morning doing a rehab workout inside the USF Athletics building, rather than with his teammates at the soccer stadium.
“The facilities in here are nice,” Holden said. “It’s a little different for me because I went to college at Clemson so we had something similar. This is a really good facility and everybody has been really helpful in taking care of us. It’s been nice to be here with a chance to get some work done.”
Kevin Davies, Bolton’s English-born club captain, said he was equally impressed on his first visit to USF.
“Aesthetics wise, this is a really impressive area,” he said. “The lads are really impressed by the facility and the training camp we could have here. Having the opportunity to come play sports and study here must be really fantastic. I’m impressed.”
After playing FC Tampa Bay on Thursday night, Bolton will travel for exhibition matches against Orlando City Soccer Club and the Houston Dynamo before returning to the greater Manchester area.