For over 6 years, John Robinson has been training kids to become better soccer players at the Sherman Soccer Complex in Gateway.

But this week the players from Robinson’s Elite Soccer Academy will be honing their skills in a very different soccer environment: Great Britain.

In what can only be described as the trip of a lifetime, 108 players and coaches are spending 6 days in London and 4 days in Manchester to tour, train and compete in England.

Gateway residents make up 65% of the rosters on the ESA teams, which are separated by age group.

The players have already been to Wembley Stadium, the home stadium of England’s National Team. Later they’ll be visiting the home stadium of the vaunted Manchester United club – one of the world’s most successful soccer clubs both on and off the field. In addition to being ranked by Forbes as the fifth most valuable sports team on the planet in 2016, Man U has won 20 first-division titles in England and an unprecedented 12 FA Cups.

Other highlights of the trip include taking in a Premier League (top division in England) exhibition game, as well as a special training session for the players where they’ll receive instruction from Premier League coaches.

And of course, they’ll be testing their skills against some local competition – in the England Super Cup. According to Robinson, some of the top players in the game have played in this tournament including Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Andriy Shevchenko, Tomas Rosicky and Joe Allen.

Prior to the tournament, the ESA squads will gain valuable experience playing some friendly matches against youth academy teams from London.

“I am so proud of our club that we are able to offer this to our 2016-17 season players,” Robinson told the Gateway Sun, adding, “This will be a great soccer experience for our players and parents but more importantly young players making great memories for life, which is what life should be about especially within youth sports”

While in England, the players and coaches will also visit historical and important sites, museums and take advantage of other sightseeing opportunities. In fact the ESA Facebook page already has pictures of the soccer club visiting Buckingham Palace.

We wish everyone involved with the Elite Soccer Academy the best of luck in the tournament, and the Sun will be following up with Robinson upon the ESA’s return to SWFL and report on some of the highlights of the trip.


So it’s the year 2000, and I’m over in Europe working with Formula 1 racecar team British American Racing.

Now, it’s difficult to put in to terms what a big deal F1 is worldwide, but it’s bigger – way bigger – than the NFL. So you actually get used to celebrities and business bigshots hanging around. Top models and actors show up and after awhile you barely give it a second thought.

But at one particular test session, the paddock starts buzzing. Mechanics drop what they’re doing and exit the garage. Team staff are absolutely freaking out with excitement.

I’ve never seen this group lose focus even for one second – let alone completely losing their minds. What in the world is going on, I wondered?

Manchester United had arrived at the test track to pay a visit.

It was only BAR and Ferrari at that particular test session, so both teams got to spend plenty of time with their heroes from Man U. I vividly remember our Test Team Manager, Andrew Alsworth, getting as excited as a little kid would when he met his favorite player, who was Man U’s starting goalkeeper. And whose name I cannot recall.

It’s hard to explain or understand (if you’re from North America) how much soccer fans love soccer. But they go absolutely crazy for it. If you’re a soccer nut, you live and breathe the sport.

So I can only imagine how excited the ESA players, parents and coaches are to be on this trip to England that Robinson organized.

They’ll get to tour Manchester United’s stadium? Are you kidding me?

Being coached, even for a day, by a Premier League coaching staff? What an opportunity.

I’m sure all the sightseeing and museums are going to be great, but these kids are going to come home with the memory of standing in the English team’s National Stadium… and dreams of one day playing there.

For more information about the Elite Soccer Academy, who as I mentioned train at the Sherman Soccer Complex in Gateway, visit

To follow the club along on their travels in England, visit their Facebook page at:

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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