RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Kickers (2-10-6) will host its fourth straight English Premier League exhibition Wednesday night at City Stadium in four consecutive seasons. After losing matches against Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion in the first two years, the river city club shocked Swansea City A.F.C. 2-0 on July 17th, 2016.
2017 has been a rough season for the Kickers who are currently in the midst of a franchise-record 14-game winless streak, dating back to April 22nd, 2017. It isn’t the type of year head coach Leigh Cowlishaw anticipated, considering this is the 25th anniversary of the Kickers as a professional club.
“We do need, really, an opportunity like this to take a breath,” says Cowlishaw, “and have fun with it because I know they’ve not been a lot of fun for the group this year, for me, for the players and this is a unique atmosphere experience to have that.”
In recent years, the Kickers have sold out the previous three encounters. Last season’s match-up with Swansea City A.F.C. had an attendance of 7,128 fans. A similar crowd is expected for the 7:30 pm first touch Wednesday, and will give the Richmond players a much needed boost, according to tenured Kickers’ defender William Yomby.
“It’s a fairy tale for everybody,” says Yomby, “we’re going to face a great Premier League team, players we usually watch on TV. Although it will be a friendly game, we need to win. We need that momentum to carry us into the weekend.”
Results aside, the midweek exhibition could be the last time an English Premier League club could come to Richmond. Across the country, leagues are expanding with more and more professional clubs due to the rise in popularity of Soccer; in turn, giving the European clubs more options to choose from for their preseason schedules. It’s a challenge the Richmond Kickers currently face with the United Soccer League consisting of 30 teams, compared to 14 in 2014.
“It’s getting harder and harder to find clubs,” says Cowlishaw, “there’s so many top professional clubs in the U.S. now vying for teams like this. So enjoy it, get out there and make the most of it.”
If it is the last game for the Kickers against an English Premier League team,, the head coach hopes the Red Army’s showing plus support from fans and attendees still shines a bright light on the organization’s future.
“It’s going to be an investment in the Kickers for the future, an investment in the city, investment in City Stadium to revitalize it and the surrounding community,” says Cowlishaw, “If people look at it that way, $30 is nothing to really help the Kickers grow, help the city grow.”