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This time round, we take a trip out to the North East, and visit the mysterious “Rob”. The Yard Dogs are a newly formed, some would say still embryonic, SG following the newly formed, some would also say embryonic, Elm City Express.
By way of an introduction, just tell me a a little bit about the person running this account (unless you require anonymity) , and how you came to love the beautiful game, pls
Well first and foremost: we are the New Haven Yard Dogs, a local supporters group for the new semi-pro soccer club here in New Haven, CT aka "The Elm City". We heard there was a team coming to our hometown and we knew we had to do everything we could to show support for the club. For those who are geographically challenged (to keep it PC) New Haven is located in southern CT, in between NYC and Boston; and we've traditionally had trouble attracting sports teams, but my friends and I always said "if any team could work in New Haven it would be soccer"
I'm intrigued as to how you go about setting up a SG when there isn't anything physical to support?
I somehow became President of this little crew, but holding me up are my VP, Joe and Sergeant-at-arms, Zach. These guys help me bring my ideas to the light. I met these guys in highschool where I would often scream, shout, cheer and lead chants for our hockey team while Joe and Zach literally held me up.
It's about supporting the idea for now. Ideas need to be supported otherwise how are they nurtured? How do they grow? They don't. We've spoken to management and we're satisfied with the direction the organization is going in
"satisfied" That's a very downbeat phrase for the start of something like this? How closely are you working with the club at this stage? Or are you focusing more on growing the Dogs?
Yeah, We're obviously excited, but right now the main goal for us is awareness for the team and crew. People have to know there's a soccer team coming, there's plenty of fans of the sport around here and we're trying to reach out to all of them
What sort of things are you doing to raise awareness?
We're on the major forms of social media @YardDogs203 currently running awareness campaigns to reach new followers and future members, but we're always thinking of new ways to spread the word
It must be a challenge to raise awareness without anything to actually point at! You said earlier that you have always been confident that a soccer club would perform well in your locale. Why do you think that?
Well, you can't point at a lot of things but people seem to take a keen interest in most of these imaginary topics. But we do have something to promote, we're currently promoting soccer in New Haven and that's enough of a starting point. The team is currently holding try-outs. New Haven has a pallet of all different cultures and many of those cultures love the beautiful game; it's a sport that united people, so many backgrounds come together to watch soccer... What makes the many backgrounds that make up New Haven any different?
Nothing at all. America is great at harmonious diversity (?) when it wants to be. And football is a great unifier, we know this.
The key is focusing on what we have in common, rather than our differences.
So why the name Yard Dogs?
A "Yard Dog" protects a train yard from intruders. It works because New Haven is definitely a city of dog-lovers as well as having a deep history in rail transportation.
Hence the "Express" too, I guess. With an eye to your inaugural season as fans, what are your hopes?
We really believe we're going to perform well. We've been paying close attention to the development of our squad and we're glad management is taking it so seriously. We're also looking forward to providing an atmosphere that our players and fellow fans are going to enjoy. We're also looking forward to away trips... especially to Hartford. The whole match day experience has us praying for May
Off-season is absolutely the worst. Can't even begin to imagine how it must feel when literally everything is new. I envy you! What do you have planned to create that atmosphere? Too early to talk specifics, I'm sure, but I've seen some more established clubs setting up chant workshops, for example. Are you placing Hartford as The Rivals for this season, then?
We definitely have plans for chants and luckily our home base isn’t far from the stadium, so we'll definitely be practicing for match day, but we want to bring a very euro feel to our section: banners, flags, choreography and songs are definitely cornerstones of what make European matches special. I mean I'd want to play for fans like that lol and that's what we're hoping for... As far as Hartford goes, yeah how could we not be rivals to some degree? We've been in talks with @AgentsOfHaleCT on what we're going to be playing for in our derby, but to be honest we all kind of have our eyes open for out-of-state rivals. The Hartford games are going to have a more brotherly vibe, I think. We're for the progression of soccer in CT and the Agents seem like a great group of soccer fans.
That's healthy. The faux rivalries that teams higher up the ladder try to nurture are so hollow. This home base ... a bar by any chance?
No, not a bar, a compound, so to speak. However we do have a local bar that's front-running to be our "official supporters bar" where we'll have an exclusive part of the establishment to watch games and meet.
I don't know why folks are always reluctant to name their favorite eating and drinking places. What's the bar called? Give them some free exposure!
Eh, nothing's official, but let's just say The Regal Beagle - New Haven has great food lol
Good to hear. I presume a few folk around your league will be looking at a trip to New Haven, so where would you recommend they check out, culturally and gastronomically?
Luckily for visitors New Haven's culture will always have something to do with pizza. New Haven has so many pizza places that have been named in the top pizza places in the country it's almost cliché at this point. Grand Apizza (pronounced: ah-beets), Modern Apizza, Delegna's, Sally's and the most famous reindeer: Frank Pepe's... All must haves around here. Gastronomically: New Haven has a plethora of great place to grab a drink, but if you're a soccer supporter: The Regal Beagle, Anna Liffey's, Christie's Pub and The Trinity... Just to name a few. It's tough to find a bad bar or bad food around here, we have it figured out lol
Sounds like we should all move out East then? Got any room on your floor? Bringing things back to football, we have to talk about pro/rel. Speaking purely for yourself, do you think US soccer can continue to operate within a closed system?
Pro/rel is just what's fair, that's my personal opinion. Makes for better underdog stories. I feel like as more and more teams pop up around the country it's going to be tougher to keep better teams out of professional soccer
Do you feel there are a sufficient number of clubs down the ladder to make it work right now? Is the player pool big enough?
If the talent is there then people will come watch, NPSL has some great teams and some great fans. I think the more friendlies you see between clubs of higher divisions and lower divisions the more we can start to erase those lines if it's a good competition. The talent pool is there, how deep it is? I'm not sure. I'm sure there's some great footballers out there that just need an opportunity
I think America embraces soccer a bit more each day. It's a fun game to play and match days are a fun experience. The days of soccer being the "lame" sport are fading away thanks to local pride
It has definitely come a long way from WC 94 and all that. And MLS has played no small part in that, for sure. As has the internet and satellite TV, of course! Do you know if the club has any plans to enter the US Open Cup this year?
I’m not sure, I think we're focusing on the upcoming season. I'm sure management will make a decision from there. We'll be cheering them on that's for sure
One step at a time, eh? Rob, this has been an absolute pleasure. We'll wind things down with a couple of generic questions if that's ok? Do you have any non-American teams that you follow?
Yeah, I follow a couple teams: AS Roma & West Ham United, mostly. AS Roma because I'm of mostly Italian-heritage and that's where our family traces our origins and West Ham United because I love the underdogs. Recently started following PSG after working with a long-time fan and Parisian transplant. Joe, follows Napoli religiously for heritage reasons as well (ironically, his father is an Inter fan) and Zach is a fan of Torino because while in Italy his guide was a big Torino fan. Amazing how teams choose you…
It takes all sorts, and everyone has a story. I would take issue with the "I love the underdogs ... I recently started following PSG" segue tho! West Ham have a ... colourful reputation back home. I hope you don't take that rep to the stands with you! Do you listen to any soccer-specific podcasts? Have you any soccer-specific reads, blogs, books or magazines, that have shaped your understanding of the game?
Haha yeah they clash a bit, but financial take overs have a tendency to make heels out of the most humble of clubs, as we see with Chelsea's buyout over a decade ago. But it's all about perspective I suppose lol and yes West Ham do have a naughty reputation; we'll definitely be keeping it clean, but we hope to be just as loud and passionate. I don't particularly listen to any soccer podcasts and all my literature on the sport is someway that of Italy's ultras or England's firms. Writers like Cass Pennant, Bill Gardner and Bill Buford. My colleagues, I'm sure, have much classier material than myself haha
Oh, you're one of *those* American football fans, huh? ;) West Ham makes perfect sense then!!
Lol well I like I think I evolved from the the English hooligan fan boy to really appreciate a hard working team. I love West Ham united because they're a working class team, that's produced star after star and the whole time their fans stuck by them. I remember watching Ricardo Vaz Te score the goal that promoted us back to BPL. It was euphoric. And even though the likes of Payet and other great players will always leave for bigger clubs or bigger money one thing remained constant and that was the passion and love the fans had for their club. It didn't matter what players left, it was about where you're from and the pride you take in the team that represents you. That's where I'm at with Elm City. I’m a sports fan first and foremost and I think that's why I appreciate soccer. We all played as kids at some point or another. It's easy to follow, it's 90mins and that's it! How can you not plan to watch that? Most people probably sit around for 90mins trying to think of something to do. Go play soccer, come see a match, it's a helluva good time... Playing and watching.
Finally, then, why should anyone join up with the Yard Dogs this season? This is your last chance to sell your vision. Go big!
This club will represent us, all of us from southern Connecticut that want something to be ours. Plenty of people around here are longing for a professional team and if you're as passionate about keeping them, embracing them and growing with them then you're already a Yard Dog. If you're proud to be apart of a great area with as many different cultures as we have and you want to get together for a good time and want to see some better soccer then why not an Elm City Express match?
Stop by. We'll be the ones heckling the away keeper
Fantastic. I'm tearing up here. Rob, you've been an absolute star. Thank you. Remember, if you are enjoying the weekly content coming out on AP you can Follow AP on Twitter, or Like AP on Facebook. And if you want make sure you never miss an interview, and want to read articles before everyone else, click here and sign up for the Newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road.
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