Brighton & Hove Albion under-23s assistant coach Shannon Ruth spoke about the experiences the young Seagulls are learning both on and off the field ahead of this weekend’s Hong Kong Sevens tournament.
A ten-man Albion squad has jetted out to the far east to compete in the event for the second year in a row, and Ruth spoke of the benefits such an opportunity provides for the players both on and off the field.
He said, “We’ve had a small-sided game friendly game with Rangers today to get the lads used to the format and the environment.
“We had the opening ceremony dinner too and all the teams were introduced with a few guest speakers, and we’ve tried to give them a few bits and pieces to remember away from the field too.
“For some of them a trip like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so myself and Jon Morling said to the group we wanted to give them the best trip possible and embed ourselves in the culture before being fully focused when the football starts.
“It’s important to have a balance of both, because experiences like this don’t come around for some of them that often.”
Ruth also spoke about the differing dynamic of the group which has made the trip to represent the club, highlighting the positives of observing the players in a non-playing environment.
“We’ve taken a good mix of lads in the group, it’s a good opportunity for everyone,” he continued.
“The likes of Ryan [Longman] and Ben [Wilson] have the chance to be around the group and see how some of the older lads conduct themselves.
“Really when we’re out here in this tournament situation, it’s a good chance for them to get to know one another and build those relationships away from the field - it’s nice to have a blend of age groups who can learn from each other and help one another.”
Albion will join 15 sides in Hong Kong to compete for the Soccer Sevens trophy this year — three group stages matches will be played before the tournament splits into Cup, Shield and Plate sections.
The Seagulls will face reigning champions Newcastle United, AFC Champions League holders Kashima Antlers from Japan and Hong Kong side Yau Yee League Select in Group C.
“We feel we’re in a slightly stronger position this year heading into the tournament in terms of knowing what to expect, a number of the lads travelled last year.
“They know what the event brings and the environment’s effects – it’s hot and humid and the boys have noticed that, it’s about familiarising them with all of those different things ready for the kick-off on Saturday.
“Last year we did this on the back of promotion, and we’re here on the back of another positive campaign.
“It gives us a chance to see the players outside of football and how they integrate with one another – their standards of professionalism have really pleased us and the way they’ve conducted themselves has been something we’ve prided ourselves on.”