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Powell keeps Bournemouth in island link

Plenty of passion: Zaire Smith dribbles through the defense during a training exercise, while Bournemouth coaches Andrew Powell, centre, Gareth Stewart look on(Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Andrew Powell, a Bournemouth Academy scout, has plenty of first-hand knowledge of Bermuda’s passion for football and the individual talent the island continually produces.

Bermudian-born Powell was among six coaches from the English Premier League club who delivered a free, five-day training camp at Goose Gosling Field, thanks to sponsorship from ValidusRe last week.

More than 140 youngsters, aged between 8 and 23, were introduced to Bournemouth’s coaching philosophy, with several players known to have caught the eye of the team’s coaching staff.

Powell is familiar with several local coaches, including Kyle Lightbourne, Andrew Bascome and Maceo Dill, and helped facilitate Kacy Milan Butterfield’s extended trial at Bournemouth before his move to the Sky Bet League One side Walsall.

It is understood the club are also interested in looking at other Bermudian players, having been impressed with the athleticism and ball skills of some of those who attended the camp.

“I tend to come to the island quite a lot and mix with a lot of the coaches,” said Powell, who left Bermuda at the age of three before returning as a 19-year-old for 16 years, working at CCS – IT Consulting. “I’ll look around, see a lot of players, and highlight them if they’re good enough. Milan Butterfield was one we looked at, and after about five seconds thought, ‘Yep, pretty good’, and we brought him in.”

A former BAA player, who describes himself as the “eyes and ears” for Bournemouth on the island, has maintained strong links with Bermuda over the years and has family still living here.

Last year, he returned to the island with Joe Roach, the Bournemouth Academy manager, and met with the Bermuda Football Association and Government, as part of a reconnaissance trip prior to organising the coaching camp.

“It’s perfect synergy, really, as I know a lot of people on the island,” said Powell, who joined the South Coast side after a chance meeting with Matty Holmes, their former midfielder and present youth coach, who he played against as a youngster.

“I was born here and my family is Bermudian, although I’ve lived in the UK for most of my life.

“Last year, we travelled to the island and met with the BFA, with Joe putting on a presentation of Bournemouth’s philosophy at BAA for about 32 local coaches. We embraced the island’s culture and it was good for Joe to come out to see the enthusiasm for football on the island.

“He could see the passion was here and knew we were not wasting our time coming back here.”

Joining Powell at the camp was Bruce Suraci, the Bournemouth head coach for foundation phase, who believes Bermuda’s young players need to work on blending their individual flair with modern collective ideas. Suraci also said the players on show were “very coachable”, but were not used to training with the same intensity as players of the same age at professional clubs in England.

“I would say the top-end players in the group demonstrated they could compete at a standard akin to what we have at Bournemouth,” Suraci said.

“Athletically, some of the players are very good, probably better movers than what we’ve got [at Bournemouth].

“Technically, they’re very good at dribbling, turning and the individual stuff, but I think they struggle with passing and receiving. At Bournemouth we’re quite big on possession-based football and it’s about whether they can adapt to the higher components of possession.”