It’s a new week, which can only mean one thing. #FromTheVault on Non League America is back!
Now, Nick Surface graciously agreed to do this interview with me back before Christmas, and a lot has happened with his team since then, including getting Delta Airlines (!) to be the teams official jersey sponsor, and drawing over 2,000 fans to their NPSL debut. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this season goes for them, and really enjoyed doing this interview. Check it out.
American Pyramid: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you’re from, what your role is with Albion SC.
Nick Surface: We have a variety of background’s in the front office. Noah Gins is our executive director and he is originally from New Mexico. Nick Surface is the Director of Operations and Marketing and he is from San Diego. Wayne Crowe is our director of soccer and he is from Northampton in England. Ian Cook is from San Diego, CA and he is in charge of social media communications.
When did you first get interested in soccer in general and running a soccer team in particular? Was there a certain event that got you into the sport, or have you always been into soccer?
NS: Our entire staff have been into soccer their whole lives with the exception of Nick Surface. Although he always had an interest and played as a kid, he fell in love with it when he moved to England in 2003. The rest of the staff all played professionally and have been involved in it their entire lives.
Now, to people who are in the know, San Diego is almost like the untapped holy land of American Soccer. What makes San Diego such a hot bed for the game, both in terms of participation and support?
NS: San Diego is a hotbed for soccer for a variety of reasons but there are three main ones. I think the weather plays a big part since soccer players can play here year around to maximize touches on the ball. The proximity to the border and subsequent Hispanic influence and passion radiates on the field. San Diego is a melting pot which means people from all over the world bring their culture here and people are generally open minded to it. Soccer is such a simple but wonderful game so it is no surprise that people continually fall in love with it. Finally, the population of the community is athletic and strives to always be amongst the best in the country so there is no shortage of people willing to get out and kick a ball.
Where exactly in San Diego is your team located?
NS: Albion PROS offices are at Robb Field, in Ocean Beach, just off the I-8 West freeway. Home games will be played at the centrally located Serra High School in Tierrasanta. It is a great stadium holding 4800 people and has a concourse that is ideal for all the extras we have planned for home games.
What makes your city awesome? Guess you could say,why should a soccer fan visit San Diego?
NS: San Diego is known as America’s Finest City for a reason. We have great weather, great beaches, fantastic food, a thriving craft beer industry, active lifestyle, and a growing importance in the national landscape of professional soccer. Anyone who lives here and leaves quickly understands why San Diego is so fantastic. It is a difficult place to move away from. There is literally a ton of things to do year round and you always have the option to go to the beach and do nothing at all. What more could you ask for?
Are there any challenges you’re facing that seem to be unique to your city in starting this team?
NS: San Diego faces a unique challenge in that professional sports teams struggle to generate city-wide obsession and enthusiasm on a regular basis. Maybe this is due to the amount of transplants from other areas that have brought their fandom loyalties to our beautiful city. There is also a lot of competition for people’s attention as there is always so much going on. We understand that and believe we are offering professional soccer in a way that is uniquely San Diegan so people can come to a game and experience more than just a soccer game. We don’t expect people to come to us just because there is a live soccer match. Instead we will offer them a great atmosphere and entertainment options at the match in addition to what’s going on on the field. We believe we can tap in to the love for San Diego that residents have and give them a team and an experience they can enjoy and be proud of.
How does the local community seem to be responding to the idea of having a soccer team in town?
NS: The initial response has been incredible. The conversations have started about putting an MLS franchise here at some point in the near future which shows that it’s on people’s minds. While we would love to be that team, we aren’t getting ahead of ourselves. The interest level and support we have received thus far have been fantastic and we really appreciate it. We are looking forward to engaging more with the local community and giving them something they can feel a part of.
Tell me a little bit about the league you’re joining, the National Premier Soccer League. What kind of advantages does it have over other leagues that you looked at?
NS: The NPSL is a great foundation to start building a soccer franchise. The league has national reach, but regional roots which are some things we thought would be important for growing a passionate soccer culture. We wanted to be in the national soccer discussion but also solidfy our status as the premier soccer team in the region.
Was there something in particular that drew you to joining the NPSL over doing something more local, like the United Premier Soccer League, So Cal Premier League, or Coast Soccer League?
NS: The NPSL has the advantage of having a national reputation for excellence on and off the field. We want to show that we’re taking this endeavor seriously to be in the national conscience. There’s a reason why professional teams are choosing the NPSL to compete in with their reserve teams. The championship game had 18,000 fans this year which shows just how much the league is doing.
Does the NPSL have a long-term vision for their league and your teams role in that future?
NS: The NPSL aims to continue their growth and excellence on and off the field. At our recent AGM, you could see how passionate everyone involved is about growing the game of soccer in our country. They look to attract franchises that are involved in the community and committed to providing great soccer on the field. ALBION PROS falls right in line with that so it is a natural fit.
How excited are you at all the changes taking place in the NPSL? Looks like they are really making things more professional.
NS: We are very excited. The NPSL has definitely been taking steps to improve. We’re all looking to ride the wave of growth for American soccer. If the MLS is only 20 years old and already has higher league wide average game attendance than NHL, why cant NPSL average a couple thousand fans per game?
Is there anything you’re really hoping to accomplish in your first year in the league? Or I guess you could say, what do you believe needs to happen for the first season to be considered a success?
NS: Well, right of the gate were looking to compete for the league title on the field. We believe San Diego has some of the best talent in the nation and our track record shows that were capable of great things in a short amount of time. Off the field, to be considered a success we want sizable fan attendance, some key coroporates sponsors to partner with and to lead the way on community and fan engagement through social media and strategic initiatives.
Why should the average soccer fan care about a team in San Diego?
NS: Because we pride ourselves on doing things with excellence and it will truly be something to experience and be a part of. We have never taken the attitude that people should just come to us because we are putting on a soccer game. Instead we are going to give them something to enjoy and engage with. We are going to put on a top class team in a fantastic environment at a great price. We want fans to see that it is a team that is going places and it is theirs. They can make it better by taking part, making suggestions and having as much fun as possible at games.
Cast a vision for me: Where do you see Albion SC in 5 years?NS: Albion SC, in 5 years, would be playing at the next level of professional soccer (USL/NASL) with aspirations to someday soon help bring an MLS Franchise to San Diego. That would be us in our wildest dreams. We are well connected in the soccer community and I am constantly amazed by what comes across our desk so you really can’t put a limit on the possibilities. We are ambitious and hard working and we’ve found that those qualities have served us well thus far.
Bonus Questions: Who’s your way early pick to win MLS Cup next year?
NS: I think LA Galaxy finally gels with all their firepower and is able to lift the cup at the end of the season.
What’s your favorite book, regardless of genre?
NS: Love soccer player’s and manager’s books (Beckham, Sir Alex Ferguson etc) autobiographies. Outside of soccer, my (Nick Surface) favorite books are The Picture of Dorian Gray and Brave New World. I’ve always loved classic literature and those two captured my imagination.
Who’s your favorite current soccer player?
NS: Andres Iniesta is my favorite by far. He is a little magician on the field and can literally do it all. Beat a man off the dribble, pick a perfect pass, score and defend. There are no weaknesses. He’s also a very humble guy off the field which I really like.
Do you have a favorite soccer book, movie or podcast?
NS: The Four Year Plan is my favorite soccer movie. It follows QPR in England as they look to get out of the 2nd tier of English soccer and in to the Premier league. It is simply fascinating to see an impetuous billionaire owner and how he behaves himself with his team. I’d highly recommend it whether you’re a soccer fan or not.
Where can people find out more about yourself and the team?
NS: @AlbionSCPros on TW, IG, FB. Website is albionscpros.com. The website has all the latest news and announcements along with our social media.
What would you like to say to the people reading this article about why they should get behind the lower levels of American soccer in general, and Albion SC in particular?
NS: I would just ask them to come out to a game and see for themselves. As we said earlier, we don’t feel like fans owe us their support. We want to give them something excellent that is theirs that they can be proud to be a part of. We feel strongly we have the foundation in place with a nationally recognized youth team. The successes and lessons learned there along with the relationships we’ve built have given us an ideal background to really build something special in San Diego at the professional level. This is the ground floor and we want people to enjoy the ride together and grow with us.
Nick, thanks for taking the time to talk with me and share about Albion SC. A quick reminder for everyone. If you are enjoying the content I’m putting out, I’d encourage you to support American Pyramid by clicking here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. And if you’d like even more content coming your way on the regular, click here and sign up for the weekly newsletter, containing fun articles and videos, sometimes covering soccer, sometimes not. Make sure to spread the word. Share interviews, tell friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can’t accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without you. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.