Hunter was selected from the Celtic Elite Program in NY this summer to attend the Celtic Academy. He will attend classes with the players at St. Ninian's High School and train at Lennoxtown from November 20-24th.
Day 1 - Sat Nov 18
We kicked off the trip by meeting up with Coach Mick at Chickies and Pete's in Philadelphia Airport.
The flight to London was long, but not too bad. 7 hours trip - when we landed it was Saturday.
Getting through Heathrow for the first time was a bit challenging, but we wound up in the right terminal and the flight from London to Glasgow was uneventful. It was a full flight, but luckily we had a three seater row to our selves so we got to stretch out for that leg of the trip. We landed around 12:00 PM local time on Saturday. We got our bags from baggage claim - mine came out first and my dads came out last, but thankfully we got them at all. We immediately met Shaun Gallagher outside of the baggage claim and he shuttled to the Hotel. We got all checked in and then I fell asleep for a bit (since we did not sleep on the plane). We grabbed some food around 3:00 PM at the Hotel and then we went upstairs to our room and we both went back to sleep. We got up around 9:00 PM and met Mick down in the lobby for dinner then I went up to bed for good around 10:00 PM local time.
Day 2 - Sun Nov 19
We started the day around 8:00 AM local time. We got up, got dressed and had breakfast at the Hotel. We got our warm weather gear on and headed out to the train station to take a trip to Stirling so we could walk Stirling Castle. We got off the train in Stirling and Coach Mick will agree that the walk to the castle nearly put him in the Hospital. There were so many hills we to walk up just to get to the castle. We had a great time. What an adventure going back in time and visiting the historic site. I was amazed by the sights, the views, and the history. We were lucky to get the opportunity to go visit such a place. We grabbed lunch at the castle and then headed back on the train to the hotel. We met with Willie McNab at the hotel and I got my training kit for tomorrow.
Day 3 - Mon Nov 20
I had breakfast at 7 am and met the other two players from the USA. I was feeling a bit nervous but excited too.
Today was my first day of school at St Ninian's. Willie picked us up at the IBIS Hotel and it was about a 15 - 20 minute ride to the school. The kids I met were really nice. I was partnered up with Dane Murray. I went to Modern Language (Spanish Class) and then Mathematics. We had a private study period were we hung about the main area of the school and then we stepped out for lunch and got some Subway right next to the school. When we got back, it was Art, Physics, and Religious Studies. Art was fun. I was able to sculpt a head during class. This is something we do not do back at home in Bensalem.
A bus picked us up after school and took us to Lennoxtown where the first team trains. It was a 15 minute ride from the school. All the boys got changed into their training gear and we had a lite practice session since the team had a game the day before. The team has a recovery day after a match. We did some basics drills and then had a small-sided scrimmage. After that, we went to the training room to ride the bike for a bit then it was back to the Hotel. Looking forward to tomorrow.
Day 4 - Tues Nov 21
We were picked up at the Hotel around 7:45 AM local time and headed off to school. In Psychical Education class, we learned Scottish Dancing. I had to do Ballroom dancing in 8th grade and I thought I was done with formal dancing, but now I got to learn some Scottish Dancing. It was fun, but not really for me. I was given some Chemistry homework today and I was participating in class during Mathematics and English. Subway for lunch again.
We trained at Lennoxtown today and we were outside on the "pitch". It was raining back and forth while we were practicing, but I did not mind. It was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit / 10 degrees Celsius. As Coach Mick would say, " It was Proper Soccer Weather". Tonight was more intense than the prior session. We did out fast paced warm up and then progressed into some complicated passing drills and then moved into some small sided activity taking what we did in the drills and applying it to our small sided activity.
After practice (They call it skill here in Scotland), I was able to watch the U16 Boys play a match. I was watching with Coach Mick and we were analyzing the game together. It was like watching a professional game up close. The speed of play was at another level. I am glad I was able to watch. We left the training center around 8:00 PM and we got some food back at the hotel and then off to bed. Tomorrow we train twice - once before school and then after school at St Ninian's.
Day 5 - Wed Nov 22
Today was the first two a day session we had. We got picked up at the hotel at 6:45 AM local time and then practiced at St Ninian's in the morning. It was a lite sessions of passing and movement drills. We then went to class and had a lite schedule. More Scottish dancing during PE. We practiced on the turf at the school in the evening. Most of the drills we did, I have done at practice with Coach Mick, but the drills were in smaller spaces and were more intense. We then scrimmaged 6v6. It was fast paced, high energy and extremely competitive. After practice, we headed back to the hotel and then went out to eat at a restaurant called Proper Burgers. I had my first Irn Bru soda. Tomorrow, Coach Mick is going to find me a Fried Mars Bar to eat.
We got back to the Hotel and caught the highlights from the Celtic vs PSG Game. It did not go well for Celtic. I called it a night pretty early since we have to get up the next day early again and we have two training sessions tomorrow. One at St Ninian's in the morning and then we are back to Lennoxtown tomorrow night.
Day 6 - Thurs Nov 23 (Thanksgiving)
We were picked up at our usual time from the IBIS Hotel at 6:45 AM Local Time. We were shuttled off to St Ninian's for our morning training sessions and breakfast. It was cold, but the good news was it was not raining. The session was short this morning, but as always, high paced. School is becoming normal like school at home, it's just that I have to wear a dress shirt and tie every day. We got the bus to Lennoxtown where we had our second session.
Before practice, I was interviewed by someone from Celtic TV. They asked me some questions like where I am from, what do I like about Scotland, what do I think of the training, etc. After the interview, we started off with a warm-up, then transitioned into ball movement drills combined with cardio and then moved into a drill where one team was trying to score and the other team was to pressure the ball, steal it and then possess.
After training, our coach took us to Celtic Park to see it all lit up at night time. I got some pictures with the guys that are here with me from the states (Gabe from TX and Matthew from NE). After that, we got dropped off at the Hotel. Since it was Thanksgiving back at home, we all went out to eat. We tried to eat at The Griffin (Traditional Scottish Restaurant), but kids are not allowed in the bar after 8:00 PM. We found a Mexican place called Mango where we had dinner. After dinner, we stopped at a Fish and Chips shop and I got a Fried Mars Bar - Coach Mick said they were really good. As usual, he was right. My dad got a fried piece of pizza. This is something Coach Mick also said was good. My dad enjoyed it. After that, we got back to the hotel and called it a night.
Hope everyone back home had a Happy Thanksgiving.
Day 7 - Fri Nov 24
Last day of school. I am excited that this is our last day of school here in Scotland. We had a light training session in the morning at St Ninian's. After school, we got a picture with all the boys. I will miss it a little, but I am excited to be getting back to my normal routine at Bensalem High School. Our evening training session at Lennoxtown was snowed out so we played 4 v 4 and 6 v 6 indoors for about 40 mins and the coaches called it a night. We got back late to the hotel so we decided to eat in since it was Friday night and we could not get a reservation anywhere in town until late. I went back to the room, checked out some videos on my phone and then called it a night.
Day 8 - Sat Nov 25
Last training session of the week. Our training session took place at Barrowfield. This is in the city and it's about 5 mins from Celtic Park. This is where the first team use to train before Lennoxtown was built. The U15s had off today so we trained with the U16 and U17 boys. There was an 11 v 11 instructional game happening with the older boys on one pitch and I was off on the other pitch playing 4 v 4 or 5 v 5 with lads. The grass was frozen when we started, but the sun was out for a bit so it melted rather fast.
After the training session was done, we toured the Celtic Park. I got to meet Jim Craig. Jim was a member of the Lisbon Lions. This is the nickname given to the Celtic team that won the European Cup at the Estádio Nacional near Lisbon, Portugal on 25 May 1967, defeating Inter Milan 2–1. Then we got to head into the locker room and see the jerseys of the first team players then we walked down the tunnel and was in the area where the players sit. It was a cool experience.
We fly home tomorrow - Sunday, 11/26/2017 (not looking forward to that :) ). It was a great experience and I was lucky to have the opportunity.