Ex UCD man Gav Colton has just started his new life in America and he sat down for a chat with Jamie Moore
Three weeks ago UCD AFC’s Gavin Colton made the move to Northern Kentucky University in America to take up a scholarship and play football in Division 1 of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The 19 year old from Leixlip began his footballing journey as a five year old with Confey FC where he stayed until he was ten. A spell at Leixlip United followed before a move to top Dublin club Cherry Orchard.
During his time with the Ballyfermot club, Gav entered Sky One reality football competition ‘Football’s Next Star’ and spent eight weeks training in Inter Milan’s training base in Italy, before eventually coming third in the overall competition meaning he didn’t earn a contract with the Serie A club.
“The whole experience, going to Italy and training with the European Champions along with being on the television (even to this day with the repeats)was a great time in my life and one I won’t forget. Living in Italy was very enjoyable, living in a villa beside Lake Commo did make it that bit easier. A move back to Italy would be something I’d be interested in doing at some stage in my career.”
After playing in the U17 Milk Cup with Orchard, Gav signed for UCD AFC.
“I signed towards the end of the season so my first few months I didn’t get much playing time. But slowly I made my way into the U20 team and began playing with the reserves. In my last year at the club I even managed to get a run or two with the first team which was a good experience.”
“Playing under Martin Russell was a good experience and I learned a lot from all of the coaches at UCD. To have a coach who preached a modern style of football was a change from my Cherry Orchard days which was a good test for me.”
At the end of last season and after completing his Leaving Cert, Gav decided he was going to pack his bags and head off to pastures new.
“It was the affluent and fashionable American college life that attracted me to America, and also the head coach here is very similar to Mick Hayes, my old manager at Cherry Orchard who passed away from cancer.”
Spending time on the campus of a big University will be nothing new to Colton. The site of his new home is built on over 500 acres of land, which includes a brand new football stadium. 20,000 students study in Kentucky.
“I will be studying American Criminal Law & Justice, French, Music appreciation, Popular Culture and ATP101 (Similar to sports science in Ireland). I chose these courses because I have an interest in each one of them and I feel studying a broad curriculum will help me decide what I want to study for my major.” Lots of work ahead for our Mr Colton.
The team will play in Division 1 of the Atlantic Sun Conference and the college have just spent ten million dollars on redeveloping the stadium and dressing rooms. The majority of football in Ireland is played on grass, but Gav’s new team train and play all their games on 3G astro turf pitches which he has just about got used to.
“The standard here is very good, and probably a bit better than what I expected! We’re playing in the top division in the country this year so we’ll be playing against the best American colleges and expecting crowds of a few thousand at the games.”
“ Where the technical standard of soccer here may slightly lack it more than makes up for this in fitness and strength of players in the Division. I’m the fittest I have ever been at the moment, coming to the end of a tough pre season in a regular 40 degrees of heat and training three times a day, six days a week.”
The coaches are strict and ensure a high tempo in all the sessions. His days start early, with a 5am wake up call before the first training session of the day at 7am. Session two kicks off at 1pm and then there’s a third session or 90 minute match at 7pm. I wonder if the American’s ever heard of rest? (I said that not Gav in case any of his coaches are reading this) Thankfully he passed the pre season fitness tests, a failure would have resulted in extra training.
“A typical day for me in America would be waking up at 5am for the first practice of the day. After training I would sit in the ice baths for around 20 minutes then come back to my apartment for breakfast, which usually consist of a protein shake and a bowl of cereal and some toast. Usually I would have a nap until around 12pm before my next training. We generally eat together as a team at 5pm before our 7pm practice. After another stint in the ice baths I would either go out to the cinema or bowling or even to a restaurant with a few of the lads or I’d come home to chill out for the night with the XBox.”
The lads in the UCD AFC dressing room won’t be too happy to hear this, but Gav claims the banter with his new American team-mates is very good and even rivals the crack he had back home with UCD. “We do everything as a team here, eat out, party and live together too.” If only you had have asked Gav and we would have done everything with you here and then maybe you would have stayed!!
On a serious note Gav is living almost 4000 miles from home and will miss a number of things about Dublin:
“Of course I’m missing home! I’m missing my family of course but I’m beginning to feel at home here in Kentucky. I’m also missing my girlfriend back at home but hopefully after Christmas she can get some time to visit! I’ll also miss some nights out back at home such as my Debs and Leaving Cert Results Night (which was last Wednesday night) but they’re only small sacrifices to make.”
Skype and Facebook have helped with home sickness and Gav quotes napping, cinema, golf, swimming, diving and eating (as he lives right beside the food hall!) are some of the ways he uses his free time.
He is also a student of the game and hopes to complete his UEFA B coaching licence over the next couple of years to take his first big steps on the coaching ladder so his career after football.
Speaking about UCD AFC’s hopes of staying in the Airtricity League: “I do think UCD will stay up! I’ve been following MNS on RTE Player and the lads are looking good. Considering the work the lads put in studying and playing, they deserve to be playing top flight football in Ireland.”
Judging by Gav’s analysis of his first few weeks in The States, I don’t think he will be coming home any time soon!
“Over here I feel as though I can say whatever I want to people and there will be no consequences, people here melt when they hear my Irish accent and want to know immediately all about you and where you’re from. I would say that there are definitely some perks to being Irish in America.”