Interview with Paco Craig of Louisville City FC
Happy 2017 everyone! This is my second article of 2017 and also my second interview article ever! I am very happy to share with you guys the interview that I had with Louisville City defender Paco Craig. For those of you who don`t know Louisville City is in the now Division 2, USL. It was great working with someone who is extremely interesting and has played with a large variety leagues. From West Ham`s youth team to NCAA soccer to the USL, Craig has seen a lot. I hope you all enjoy this background into a very good player on one of the better teams in USL, Enjoy!
MLS ACES: Being born in London, England must have majorly impacted you to turn to a career in professional football. What can you remember from your childhood that drove you toward the beautiful sport?
PC: My dad loves football so he always encouraged myself and my brothers to play and watch it since I can remember. But playing sports was always extremely appealing to me and of course being in England, football was the sport to play. It also meant I got time out of primary (elementary) school whenever we had a game so that was always cool to me.
MLS ACES: Another personal impact on your life must have been your father. Your father is Miley Craig who played bass in the legendary English band Culture Club. Did your father being so famous in England have any positive or negative impact on your childhood?
PC: It definitely had an impact because I lived an completely regular life and had regular friends but when a stranger would approach my dad in the grocery store to get a picture or shake his hand it would totally baffle me as he was/is still my regular dad who I see as a human and love very much. Because of this I am one of those people who doesn't want to rush a celebrity if I ever see one around town (unless its someone really special haha)
MLS ACES: Did you feel any pressure as a child to pick a career in music or football due to who you father was?
PC: I never felt any pressure at all, I played in a band with my older brother through our teens and loved it (I played drums). But my dad loves football so much he would always go above and beyond to make sure I had everything I needed for that too and when it was time to choose football he was 100% behind me. He only wanted to support me with whatever I wanted to do, even if it was something completely different.
MLS ACES: Growing up in England, who were your soccer role models?
PC: Growing up it was always John Terry, as I am not only a centre back but a Chelsea fan too. But apart from that I loved Vincent Kompany when he was in his prime, and Lucio from Brazil because I loved his mad "mazey" runs.
MLS ACES: You were in the West Ham United's youth system as a child. What memories do you have from there and what other players were you with there?
PC: It was such a blessing being there, even if I didn't always think that at the time. The training was on point and helped shape me into the player I am today. I was playing a sport while many of my friends were struggling with school work. Unfortunately none of my teammates are currently playing in the first team there but many are still playing at decent levels all over the place, mostly in the EFL (English Football League). One of my teammates that I'm sure you will know is Seb Legett who is now at the LA Galaxy. He was so obviously a class player but for one reason or another didn't get a proper chance in the first team.
MLS ACES: What happened after you left West Ham's youth system? What made you decide to attend Young Harris College in America?
PC: After my time at West Ham I was on the hunt for a pro club to sign me. I was extremely jaded at this point and navigated my way through decisions with a foggy head and a chip on my shoulder. The most significant opportunity I had was a couple weeks trial at Gillingham who was in the top half of League 2 at the time. Things went really well and I even scored in a reserve team friendly but when the manager and head coach told me they would get back to me, I never heard from them again... turned out they both lost their jobs haha. So I spent one year in the conference north with Bishop's stortford and was grateful for their faith in me as my faith was waning. About half way through the season though it was clear to me I didn't want to spend an extended time in the non-league circuit so I began looking for alternatives. One of them was the possibility to attend university in America off the back of an athletic scholarship, (it was actually my mum's idea). So I contacted an agency and they worked wonders for me and got in touch with some really great schools. the agency (United Sports USA) also had a good relationship with Mark Mckeever, YHC head coach. From the first conversation I had with him I could tell he was a proper football head and Young Harris was a fantastic environment to just focus on football so the rest is history haha.
MLS ACES: At Young Harris College you had a phenomenal career developing into a top player and a true leader on the squad. Who or what allowed you to be as successful as you were there?
PC: As is true for everything it was a cocktail of aspects that allowed me to come close to achieving my goals. The environment was prime for someone to focus on what they really wanted as it was a quiet little college up in the Appalachian Mountains so there were very few distractions. The coaching staff understand football at a high level and so the sessions and tactics put me in the right mood for competition. I was also lucky enough to play with very technical teammates (5 others of which are currently playing professional football). We all had each other to constantly push ourselves in training and cultivate a winning mentality. But ultimately, it is only ever down to yourself and what you make of your environment that determines how successful you can be. So I will also have to credit myself for my achievements but also be the first to criticize myself for not succeeding even more.
MLS ACES: During your last season in collegiate soccer you also played for the Ocala Stampede in the PDL. What was your first taste of non-collegiate soccer like?
PC: Well my first ever taste was playing NPSL for Rocjet City United in North Alabama which was a hilarious time. I then played the next two summer for Ocala and made it to the National semi-final both times with Cheyne Roberts as the head coach. Summer ball was a fantastic experience and I was lucky enough to be on a team that took good care of me well. And I definitely made some lasting friends and connections that have only enriched my American experience.
MLS ACES: In 2016 you signed your first true professional contract with Louisville City in the USL. What was that feeling like to know that you've made it to pro football?
PC: It was hugely satisfying to finally have been offered a professional contract as it escaped me at 18 years old and I was never really sure if it was going to come back.
MLS ACES: In 2016 you made 15 appearances for Louisville City and you are on the roster again for the 2017 season. What has your time in Louisville been like?
PC: My time at Louisville has been excellent, the staff are all very approachable and the players are all top lads.
MLS ACES: Louisville City has been one of the more successful USL clubs since joining the league in 2014. What would you say is the main reason for the success of this club?
PC: As usual it is a perfectly mixed cocktail of elements. The staff are very dynamic and balance each other very well. Coach O'Connor is a fantastic manager with vast amounts of playing experience and an intensity that permeates throughout the club. The players are all very talented and have great personalities, which make coming into training day after day an easy experience. Our trainer has a genuine passion for keeping us fit and strong and I've never seen an operations manager take on so many jobs. Our assistant coach offers a sympathetic ear for any of our concerns as well. I will never be able to leave out the fans, they are an incredible group and give us more inspiration than they know. We will always be grateful for their tremendous support. When elements come together successfully, a team will have the best platform to perform closest to their best.
MLS ACES: Being an international player here in America, how do you view American football and the game as a whole over here in the states? How would you compare it to Europe?
PC: Football will always be an excellent indicator towards the overall culture of a nation and it is no different in America. The main sports in America are heavily dictated by physical domination over the competition: Basketball and American football and this bleeds over into their football. (generally speaking) It seems to be a very athletically dominant game where the focus seems to be more on working harder and running more than the other team. A battle of attrition if you will. Having said that, it is certainly one of the most exiting footballing markets to be a part of as it is blowing up. Year after year there are more teams being created and there are many very talented individuals. The overall standard is very decent and things can only go up by the looks of it. It's also great that there are many nationalities able to play in the country even with the foreign player cap as central and south Americans bring a different flavor to the game as well as other nationalities. Compared to Europe it still has a long way to go but that is natural as it is still in its infancy. Football has been a pillar in the foundations of these cultures much like basketball and baseball over here.
MLS ACES; Finally, where do you view your career going into the future?
PC: I want to take it as far as I possibly can which also means I am open to playing anywhere in the world. If it means I get a chance to play in the MLS then I will be ecstatic but ultimately I would like to take my playing career back closer to my home and family when the time comes for me to settle down.
I want to thank Mr. Paco Craig for being a part of this small interview. He was a true professional and someone who I personally want to work with again. His story has so many aspects to it from a personal and soccer point of view. I am a huge fan of soccer at all levels and can`t wait to follow Paco and the rest of the Louisville City squad play in the USL this upcoming season. On a side note, I am a huge jersey fan. I will always be interested in a jersey of someone who is a top player, a true professional, or both. In saying that I am very very interested in getting myself a Paco Craig Louisville City jersey! I again want to thank Paco and the Louisville City team for allowing and being a part of this interview.