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Go travelling with West Bromwich Albion Academy’s Head of Player Development and Talent ID, Paul Gardiner
28 March 2019

Go travelling with West Bromwich Albion Academy’s Head of Player Development and Talent ID, Paul Gardiner

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As Head of Player Development and Talent ID for West Bromwich Albion Academy, it’s safe to say I love my job.

Taking the boys on tour multiple times a year, it’s very important for us to conduct a pre-tour visit to check out the facilities and make sure everything is ready for the arrival of the teams. Being a keen traveler, this is a very enjoyable part of my job. When I’m out making pre-tour checks, I try and make a special effort to visit other professional clubs in the local area that we’ll be heading to. It’s such a good opportunity to meet new people and make new relationships all over the world.

The upcoming tour has seen me exploring Sicily for a second time in my life through February 2019. For those who don’t know, Siciliy is the largest island in the Mediterranean.
 

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There’s no real structure as to how we decide where to go on tour next. In fact, tour location is very much a ‘no size fits all’ decision. We tend to pick locations we think will be good, challenging and interesting for the boys. The location totally depends on the type of tour we’re planning, the type of experience we had from a past location etc. All of these factors will contribute to the ultimate decision of whether we will come to return.

The first time I experienced Sicily was about 20 years ago when I worked in the Navy. From this visit, I knew Sicily had lots to offer for the teams. From the nature, to the culture, to the football, we know it’ll be a rewarding experience for everyone and I can’t wait to see what they learn from the visit.

 

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We take each age group on tour at least twice a year, so we have multiple teams on tour pretty much most of the time throughout the year. In this circumstance, it was a very positive visit and I was more than happy with all of the facilities.

I make the initial tour visits on my own. When I was asked to speak with Coacha about my travels, they asked me if I saw the traveling involved with my job as a positive thing. I think it’s safe to say that after 22 years in the navy, I love to travel. I’m pretty sure that throughout my life I’ve been to every single island in the West Indies. Some more than once. Travelling is very much a perk of this job.

Coacha also asked me if I had a dream destination for tour. Having a strong personal connection with the West Indies, I would love to get the boys out there. For the football, the culture and everything in between. But I think that’s one that’s more for me than the boys’ sake!

 

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Tour and Training


For those unfamiliar with what a football tour with West Bromwich Albion Academy may involve, we simply take our teams abroad to play against other professional teams. It’s an incredible experience for our athletes and coaches to play/coach different teams, learn what they do, how they train, experience different cultures and see the world.

Sometimes people ask whether there are any specific training regimes we use when we know we’re playing abroad, but the truth is, we just train as efficiently as normal, go out and play the matches as we normally would.

One thing I find incredibly interesting and always love about going on tour to different countries/continents, is seeing the things that the foreign clubs do differently to us.
 

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There are always differences in training schedule, philosophy and methodology. That’s why it’s such a fantastic experience; because there is always something that the players and coaches can take from it. Whether it’s training techniques that we’ve never thought of, or coaching techniques the foreign club have never heard of, someone is always learning something.

We often get foreign teams come to play West Bromwich Albion Academy too. In the past, I’ve played against lots of incredible athletes whilst in the academy. Tour is very much a highlight of the year and something that players on both teams highly look forward to and find extremely rewarding.

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