A little bit of jolly ol’ England will be coming to St. Louis May 23 when Busch Stadium hosts a game between Barclays Premier Division rivals Manchester City and Chelsea.
The match will be part of those teams’ American tour following the conclusion of the current season.
Many of the European teams tour the United States in the summer months, between the end of their domestic and international seasons and the start of the new year. However, it’s very rare that they come to St. Louis.
Man City and Chelsea are two of the better teams not only in England, but in all Europe.
Man City is the defending Barclays Premier League champion, but face a hard struggle if it is going to make up a 14-point deficit against their local rival Manchester United with just eight matches to go.
Chelsea stands fourth in the BPL table, seven points behind Manchester City. The Blues, who call West London home, are the defending UEFA Champions League winners.
One possibly could see some frontline players in action, although the teams generally use these tours to give lesser-used and younger players the chance to shine.
The teams visiting St. Louis are among the largest spenders in Europe, so even by seeing their secondary players, you’re still seeing a number of players who represent their nations or are rising stars.
It’s also possible that both teams could have new managers as well. Manchester City’s Roberto Mancini and Chelsea’s Rafa Benitez (who both once managed Inter Milan) are on hot seats right now. Benitez still has the “interim” tag on his job title.
I expect the event to draw a considerable crowd. There are many American supporters of the English teams. Also, you could see significant groups traveling from abroad for the tour. For no other reason, the curiosity factor should bring fans to the game. That’s what seemed to fill the stands when the National Football League visited Wembley Stadium last fall with the St. Louis Rams playing the New England Patriots.
There were many fans who were wearing team colors around the NFL fan rally at Trafalgar Square. I can remember meeting one Rams fan decked out in St. Louis gear who was from Scotland and had never seen the team play in person. He had a family member go to college in Missouri and decided to become a Rams supporter based upon that.
How many St. Louisians can say they’ve seen a top European match? It’s probably a pretty small number.
As someone who has covered a BPL match (Arsenal-QPR last October), it’s different than any other athletic event you’ve probably ever seen in person.
Imagine an NFL-level game with the type of fan cheering you see and hear at a high school basketball game. That’s the closest comparison I can make for anyone who hasn’t been there.
If the event draws a good crowd, maybe we’ll get to see other European teams come to St. Louis in the future.
It’s still something worth going to see if you’ve got the means and the time May 23.
It’s time for the Major League Baseball season to start and the St. Louis Cardinals are expected to be good, but not the best in the National League Central.
Many of the experts feel that the Cincinnati Reds will be the class of the division (although ESPN the Magazine picked St. Louis).
Most feel the Cardinals are in the next tier, but not quite as good as the Reds.
The Cardinals may not have as many huge names in the past. The team bade farewell to Lance Berkman and Kyle Lohse. Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal aren’t expected to make any contributions this year and Jason Motte and David Freese start the season on the disabled list.
The Cardinals started the season with a 6-2 loss Monday in Arizona. But you know what? Baseball has a 162-game schedule and nobody has ever lost the pennant on opening day.
That means a number of lesser-used and young players will get a chance to shine. We’ve seen that scenario play out in the past.
Willie McGee wasn’t supposed to be on the opening day roster in 1982, but thanks to David Green’s injury, he made the big club and never looked back.
Albert Pujols was supposed to be a quick fix at third base and then get shipped back down for a full season in Memphis. Despite being on the cover of the Memphis yearbook, he never played for that team.
Is that something which will happen this year? We’ll have to see.
Somehow, don’t be surprised if the Cardinals find a way to sneak into the playoffs and then make a strong run at the World Series.
On the local front, it’s nice to see our teams back in action again. It’s a typical Missouri spring and one would be hard pressed to find even a small amount of the 10 inches of snow which fell a week and a half ago.
Just a few thoughts to close out the column.
• Very nice to see the cooperation between Borgia and Washington. Many probably know that Washington’s track isn’t in the greatest of shape right now and Borgia has allowed Washington to use its facilities for a number of events. That included last Saturday’s Washington Pentathlon and also takes in the Russell C. Nix Relays which will be coming up.
In the days of the old paved Borgia track, few hurdles and no field event facilities, Washington was very helpful in allowing its neighbor institution to train.
This has been done in the spirit of cooperation and friendship. Unfortunately, this is something which usually doesn’t make headlines. The cooperation between the two schools needs to be lauded as an example of how to help a neighbor in need.
• With the snow, the only area team to play for a while last week was Borgia’s boys volleyball team. I like the nurturing approach John Nieder has taken with trying to instruct his players. Boys volleyball has never been recognized as a glamour sport in this area and it’s extremely tough to bring in athletes who can make an immediate contribution.
While the Knights aren’t going to have the greatest record among area teams, they deserve the support. If you want to see something different, stop by for one of their home games.
• We get to handle a number of signings every spring and this year is no exception. One of the most recent was for a three-sport athlete at Union High School.
While Jill Johnston competes on the varsity level in volleyball, basketball and track, she signed her letter of intent to swim for Maryville University.
Not only is this a great story of having an athlete sign, but her main competitive experience has been for the Union Swim Team Squids. This is a great moment for all involved.