After last Summer's pre-season calamities, Alan Pardew has confirmed that plans for next summer's schedule are already underway, in a bid to avoid last minute tour cancellations.
Newcastle were due to play in the Vodacom Challenge in South Africa last July, but a last minute cancellation left the club with a short amount of time to find some games. In a bid to get the players ready for the gruelling season, Pardew ended up taking his players around Europe, with games in France, Holland, Austria and Portugal.
Now though, the search for a potential tour is underway, and it looks as though the USA is number one on the list. We toured America a year and a half ago, in the preparations before of the fantastic season in which we finished 5th.
There is evidently a correlation between the quality of a pre-season schedule and how a team performs in the early part of a season. Last summer’s unprofessional set-up was perhaps one of the reasons why we failed to reciprocate last season’s form at the beginning of this campaign.
In the summer of 2011, we played teams from Kansas, Orlando and Ohio, and despite the long flight times and an embarrassing loss to Orlando City, the tour was a big success.
I think going across the pond again would be extremely beneficial, not just taking into account the obvious fact that it offers a wide range of clubs as potential opposition, but it also provides a lucrative marketing venture and to tour the US for a second time in 3 years would certainly develop the club globally.
In addition, due to the fast development of football in the country, we certainly wouldn’t be short of offers from the big MLS clubs.
Another potential tour venue mentioned is that of the Far East, in places like Hong Kong where, despite a small population and a sub-standard quality of domestic football, there is a huge fan-base.
A tour to one of these major countries in the Far East would provide a different footballing challenge. It’s another option that I believe would be a very good choice, although we would have to make sure the opponents were to the correct standard to compete against. One tournament which occurs every year out in Hong Kong is the Barclays Asia Trophy, but with Sunderland, Man City and Tottenham already in the line-up, we’ve missed out on that opportunity.
Apart from those two options you will always have the possibility of a tour of Europe. However, I don’t think that it would be as beneficial as a tour of the US or the Far East would be.
Ultimately, the overriding aspect of a touring destination is the quality of the facilities and the perhaps also the quality of the opposition – the conditioning of the players after a summer break is essential in preparing the players for the start of the new season.
We all know the US will be extremely reliable due to their impressive resources, and given the level of enthusiasm the Far East are beginning to show in their football, a trip there would also provide a very beneficial schedule.
For me, after the success of the US trip in 2011, and the season we had following that tour, I would be extremely keen to tour there again. Where would you want the club to go this summer?