Q&A with Sporting Kansas City midfielder Craig Rocastle

6 04 2011

Craig Rocastle moved to Major League Soccer last year after a ten-year career in England that spanned a total of 11 clubs.

The 29-year-old, cousin of late Arsenal and England great David, made 25 appearances for the Wizards last season.

How did your move to the MLS and Sporting Kansas City come about?

Just speaking to a variety of people, I had friends in this league previously; most of them aren’t here now. They said to have a look and see how I find it.

The agency that represented me contacted several clubs out here and Kansas City were one of the clubs that showed an interest.

Craig Rocastle has just started his second season in the MLS

How would you sum up your career in England?

Very good. I met some amazing people, played at some amazing clubs, lucky enough to play in front of some big crowds and it was great. But after playing in Europe I wanted to experience more things.

How would you compare the MLS to the leagues in England?

It’s tough to say because it’s an up and coming league, 16 years now in comparison to England which is well established. There are some good players here and some great organisations who have made that step who wouldn’t have done a few years ago.

Would you encourage more English players to move to the MLS?

For sure because it’s moving forward and they are putting a lot of time, effort and money into this league to make it one of the best. Bigger players are starting to come over here. A lot of players won’t experience playing with big players so if you get a chance to do it then do it.

Did you enjoy your first year in the United States?

It was frustrating at the beginning but that was just me adapting to the time zone, the climate and travelling. Apart from not making the play-offs which I believe we should have done it was an enjoyable year with the boys.


Sporting Kansas City winger Ryan Smith still has a lot to prove

5 04 2011

Sporting Kansas City winger Ryan Smith insists Wizards supporters have yet to see the best from him.

The 24-year-old moved to the United States in March last year after a largely disappointing career in England which included spells with six clubs.

Smith, who started as a trainee at Arsenal, made 26 appearances in all competitions for the MLS side.

He told British Footballers Abroad: “I felt I could have done better but it was my first year and I had everything that went along with it.

“I’ve had to adapt, get used to my team mates and be happy off the field too which was key. It was OK but I know I can do a lot more.”

Smith, whose former clubs include Derby County, Millwall, Southampton and Crystal Palace, admits it took time to adapt to a new culture and being separated from his loved ones.

Ryan Smith has enjoyed his first 12 months with Sporting Kansas City

“It helps that we speak the same language over here and back home but it was never easy especially for myself being away from my immediate family and daughter, it’s tough but it’s worked out well so I’m happy,” he said.

“I would say back home at the top level, if someone has a chance nine times out of ten they’ll score and you have to keep possession and avoid making mistakes.

“Over here you can make a mistake and get away with it but even so it’s still ruthless here as well – there are some really good players.

“I think it’s more physical than in England. You can get away with a lot more over here.”

In the past some English players who have tried their luck in the US have returned swiftly but Smith says he wants to be an exception to the norm.

“When I spoke to Peter Vermes (Kansas City manager), he had a plan and he really wanted me to be a part of it. He convinced me that he wanted me here and wanted me to excel here and get back to track with my football.

“I’m here and I want to focus on what I have to do here.”

Team Wellington goalkeeper Phil Imray gives up on return to Britain

2 04 2011

Imray celebrates winning the Chatham Cup last year

Team Wellington goalkeeper Phil Imray has conceded defeat in his dream to return to English football.

The 27-year-old was born in Worcester but moved over to New Zealand as a teenager to study a two year diploma in Sports Performance and link up with the Ole Soccer Academy in Wellington.

In 2008, Imray travelled back to the UK for trials with Hibernian, Motherwell and Stockport County but failed to secure a contract.

He told British Footballers Abroad: “My trial with Hibernian went ok. I was caught cold in a friendly game against Raith Rovers. We drew 0-0, but the physical side of the game caught me a bit off guard having played in New Zealand for a while. I didn’t do myself justice in that game, and I know I didn’t show enough to be offered a contract.

“I personally felt I did very well at Stockport but they could have signed me or loan a keeper from Everton. They went for the safe option of a more experienced player which was very disappointing but I understood why. I came back to NZ and got picked up by the Wellington Phoenix on a short term contract as cover for the injured Glenn Moss which was great.

“Being 27-years-old, coming back to England to trial without having a long term professional club on my CV probably rules me out from coming back. It’s a hard and expensive process. My line of work (personal trainer in a gym) also means I would have to leave my clients and risk losing a lot of business so it’s not something I am actively looking at doing. But if the chance came up I would definitely look at it.”

Imray has been a success story in New Zealand having played for the Western Suburbs in the 2006 Chatham Cup final where he saved three penalties against Eastern Suburbs. He also played in the senior NZFC last season for Team Wellington, captaining the team on a number of occasions.

Asked if he was surprised that more English players were moving to New Zealand and Australia he said: “Not really. They are both great countries to live and work in and you can play a good level of football with some really well run clubs.

“The standard in the ASB Premiership is decent. It is potentially similar to lower level English leagues but it is a different type of game. Not as physical but a good level of skill.”

Former Watford goalkeeper James Beasant talks about life at the Glenn Hoddle Academy in Spain

31 03 2011

Watford FC’s academy is often labelled as one of the most successful in the country but inevitably youngsters will be let go before they have a chance to challenge for the first-team.

Goalkeeper James Beasant – nephew of former Wimbledon and Nottingham Forest stopper Dave – was released by the club in May 2007 at the age of 18.

Now 21, Beasant is part of the Glenn Hoddle Academy based at the Montecastillo Resort in southern Spain.

“I was released by Watford because I couldn’t kick the ball far enough,” he told British Footballers Abroad. “I was at Watford for ten years so I was very disappointed but you’ve just got to take it on the chin, move on with your life and not dwell on it.

“I have many memories from Watford, for instance training with Alec Chamberlain, Ben Foster Richard Lee and Scott Loach every day. It was brilliant being involved with the first-team squad on match days and starting for the reserves at the age of 16 against a strong Chelsea team at Vicarage Road when I saved Carlton Cole’s penalty.

“I’m still in contact with a lot of people from Watford including some of the young players there. They are doing well this season; they have a very young squad and play without fear.”

After he was released, Beasant had spells with various clubs in England before linking up with the Glenn Hoddle Academy last summer.

The academy is the first of its kind, offering a route back into professional football for youngsters discarded by teams.

This season it is providing players for local side Jerez Industrial, allowing the cash-strapped club to fulfil its fixtures in the fourth tier of Spanish football.

“The set-up is excellent here,” he explained. “We stay in a villa and a 5-star hotel with food, football pitches, gym, sauna and a jacuzzi so we have everything we need on site.

“Of course it’s hard being away from friends and family but you just adapt to life out here; the lifestyle is very laid back and easy going.

“Because I play for a Spanish side I have to stay out here a lot and the only time I’ve been home is during the Christmas break and in the summer.”

Despite clearly enjoying life in Spain, Beasant admits he would like to return to his homeland and try and mirror the career that his uncle had.

“He [Dave Beasant] is the goalkeeper coach out here. He’s involved a lot as he is very experienced and has so much knowledge about the game. He is a massive inspiration to me. I’ve seen the amount of respect he has in the game and would like to have a career like him.

“In the future I would like to be an established goalkeeper at the highest possible level and would like it to be in England.”

Follow James on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/BigBes89