PHILLY'S TURN TO ASK

Posted on: Sat 28 Jul 2012

Before Chelsea left Philadelphia, chief executive Ron Gourlay, club ambassador Graeme Le Saux and local supporters came together once more for what has become a frequent event on the summer tours - the Q&A session.

The subjects discussed was as ever wide-ranging, some which could have come from any part of the Chelsea-supporting world and some more local matters, including an enquiry as to when Chelsea are likely to have an American player in our first team squad, in light of the rise in standard of the game on this side of the Atlantic.

One of Chelsea's Here to Play, Here to Stay initiatives is our work in America with Super Clubs, a network of grassroots soccer programmes across the States with whom we have close ties. It was these Gourlay highlighted in his reply.

'It is unlikely it will be an established player if we sign an American,' he said. 'It is more chance of being a young player who comes through one of the Super Clubs. We have a large scouting network here.

'We are not the sort of club that buys a player who, for instance, would help our merchandising in Japan unless he is good enough to actually improve the team.

'Given time, I am sure there will be a Japanese, Chinese or American player in our squad.'

Le Saux spoke about the development of the game in the States from a player's perspective.

'I played against the USA team back in 1994 and they were a team in development,' said the former England international.

'Physically they were there but technically they were quite a way behind, but now I have been out at community coaching events with the club on this tour and the young players coming through are much more comfortable, and that's because they have been playing since they were four or five.

'It is an on-going process because I certainly think in the next four or five years there will be a lot more players from the US playing in the Premier League.'

Bharat Ramprasad from the Philly Blues Supporters' Club who was at the event told the official Chelsea website about support for the team in the city.

'There has been a group of fans in Philly since the late '90s but it doesn't have the same number of people supporting the club as somewhere like New York, so it has been challenging for us to get organised,' he explained.

'In 2010 we were able to get enough people together to formally become a supporters club and the growth has been amazing. When we started we probably had 30 people and there are now over 120 who are actively participating and this past year has been incredible, not only with the tour but the success of the club as well because we were able to double our membership.

'For the bigger matches we will have 70 or 80 people in a bar watching together which is a tremendous experience, a far cry from when it was only three of us. I don't think you will go anywhere else in this city and find 75 people watching another team's matches together.'