How the Trotters are keen to make their mark around the globe
BOLTON WANDERERS might currently be languishing in League One, but they’re keen to be a global force – and they’re already making inroads in China!
The Trotters have had an International Football Programme since 2007 and believe it will be even stronger now that they’ve brought their on-site Bolton Whites Hotel on board.
It means the Lancashire club can bring over groups of youngsters from around the world, provide accommodation for them and have an all-in-one football experience.
And, by going out to provide coaching in different countries, Bolton can make themselves known overseas and attract visitors here.
To get the ball rolling, the Trotters put on a coaching course in football hungry China, ironically with two former Preston players at the helm – Paul McKenna and Brian O’Neil.
And McKenna described the visit to the cities of Wuxi and Xuzhou as as a fantastic experience he will never forget. The duo put on a fiveday course to give 24 schoolteachers basic coaching skills.
They also visited a high school, where they worked with some Under-18 district champions, who played a match against a men’s team.
“I managed one team and Brian the other,” said McKenna, 38. “The men’s team were far more advanced and it’s not easy to get your point across with the language barrier, so I asked if I could play in the Under-18 team!
“I came on in midfield and told the players what I wanted them to do and gave them a few pointers. They really enjoyed it.”
The former Nottingham Forest and Hull midfielder admitted the trip had been a real eye-opener.
“We saw a real piece of China,” he said. “You feel so isolated from the Western world. We didn’t see any Westerners in nine days and no-one spoke English – not even in the hotel.
“We had three interpreters all the time and they were great. It was good to have Brian with me as well – we go back a long way.”
McKenna, who has just finished his A Licence coaching course, is looking forward to adding more air miles in the coming months, with trips to Sweden and Kenya in the pipeline.
And he believes Bolton have been shrewd in tapping into the Chinese market and exploring other parts of the world.
“We’ve gone over to China and that’s generated interest from the Chinese to come over and stay at the hotel,” he said.
“Bolton are getting inquiries all the time and it’s another income stream for the club.”
The International Football Programme has already welcomed students, teams and coaches from Kenya, America, Canada, South Korea and Colombia in the last few months.
Bolton manager Phil Parkinson said: “Most of the youngsters have never been to a professional game before, but being on site at the hotel means that, if a game is played here, they can also watch it.
“Just walking into the hotel and seeing youngsters sat there wearing a Bolton kit and eating breakfast with some of the club’s players is a great sight. They really enjoy being around a professional set-up.”
CHINA DUO: Paul McKenna, right, and Brian O’Neil flew the flag for Bolton