LOST BOYO IN…Balaguer (2008) Ostersunds (2008) and Los Angeles (2012-present)
OTHER CLUBS: Swansea City, Newport County (Loan), Port Talbot Town (Loan), Neath, Llanelli, Afan Lido (Loan)
“Hey. Do you guys know Chad Hogan?” This is one of my favourite observational jokes by Scottish comedian Kevin Bridges, as he describes what he sees as a typical American teen film house party and compares it to the house parties (or “Empties”) he used to attend as a youngster in his birthplace of Glasgow. The protagonist of the joke, Chad Hogan, is portrayed as a stereotypical American teen who would host house parties during ‘SPRING BREAK!’ Although I’m sure he will not being having parties with kegs, half naked ladies in jacuzzis, pop-punk bands and promiscuous youngsters getting to different ‘bases’, there is now a new Chad on the American scene to have his very own (football) party on the west coast. Chad Bond has recently completed his transfer from Welsh Premier team Llanelli to sign for USL Pro team, LA Blues. However, this will not be the young Welshmen’s first footballing experience in a foreign land.
The LA Blues are based inFullerton, one of the largest cities in the prominent Orange Country area of California, but Bond’s routes could not be further away from the sunny city that is situated just 22 miles short of the metropolitan area of Los Angeles.
Bond was born in Neath in 1987 and brought up in the Melyn area of the town. Bond signed on the books for his boyhood club, Swansea City, around the age of 10. He would go onto sign a professional contract at the club in 2003 under Kenny Jackett, having been considered one of the hottest youth prospects at the club. After an impressive run of form in the Swansea reserve team, including a marvellous performance against Yeovil Town reserves in a midweek fixture and a recommendation to the club by Wales legend Neville Southall, Newport County snapped up Bond on loan to aid them in their relegation scrap in the Conference South. Bond made 2 appearances for the club scoring 1 goal.
Under Kenny Jackett, Swansea looked to be on the brink of promotion to the Championship and Jackett decided that he felt that Bond would not be good enough to cut it at the club. A younger player’s dream of playing for his boyhood club was destroyed in a brief, ruthless conversation with Kenny Jackett. (“I was a first-year pro but it took Kenny Jackett about three minutes to tell me there was no contract for me the next year.”) Bond was distraught as he worried for his future as a professional footballer:
“It hurt. I felt lost because all I ever wanted to do was play football. I didn’t know what to do with myself. And with Swansea if you get released there’s not many other clubs around this area. If you’re in the Midlands there’s five or six other clubs. To be told when you’re 18 there is no future at your hometown club – somewhere I’d been for eight years – was heartbreaking.”
The reference Bond makes to the lack of professional teams in the South Wales region is perhaps the first signs of the young Bond considering the prospect of relocating elsewhere to play his football, although it would be a long time until he would make a permanent switch away from the area.
Bond got jobs with the local council mowing lawns and working in an office at Day’s Motor Groups, as well as playing for Swansea’s neighbouring football team, Port Talbot Town of the Welsh Premier League, where Bond would go on to score 12 goals in 47 appearances. Fortunately for Bond a lifeline was making its way back to Swansea in the shape of former club captain, Roberto Martinez, who was to become Swansea’s new manager aftter the sacking of Kenny Jackett – ironically the man that had released him from the club as a player at Swansea. Martinez remembered Bond from his days at Swansea and had always been impressed with the young player. Martinez decided to take Bond on trial at the club and gave him his chance in a preseason friendly against Hamilton Academicals; Bond would come off the bench to score two goals in 30 minutes. Impressed by Bond, Martinez handed him a one-year deal at the club – a 2nd chance for a young footballer so rarely seen in football these days.
Martinez would give Bond his first taste of playing in a diferent footballing culture. Martinez has been deemed by many to be the creator of the ‘tika-taka’ football style that is now present at Swansea City, so to educate some of the young players at the club he sent them out on loan to his hometown club, CF Balaguer. The club is situated in the Catalonian community, north west of Barcelona and was even managed byMartinez’s father, a man Roberto watched closely in his studying of the game as a young man. Bond would join CF Balaguer on loan at the start of 2008 along with another Swansea player, Merthyr-born Kerry Morgan, having both been on loan together at Port Talbot for the first half of the season. Martinez said before they departed in January 2008:
“It will be a great experience for them both. They will learn a completely different approach to the game, technically and tactically, and will be playing against the likes of Barcelona B. As important players playing aboard, there will be a lot of attention and expectation on them.”
Bond found it tough to adjust to life in the Catalan region, more so after Kerry Morgan flew back to Swansea after getting very little game time. Bond cited things such as homesickness and the difficulties of not knowing the language as two of the chief reasons why it was so tough for him out in Balaguer.
“It was so difficult in Spain. I went there with Kerry Morgan and it was hard for him because he wasn’t playing, so he came home. I stuck it out for four months – staying in Roberto’s sister’s old flat – but I couldn’t speak a word of Catalan and it was so lonely at times. But it did make me a better player.”
Bond hailed the progress he had made as a player at FC Balaguer, after making 23 appearances for the club and scoring 6 goals.
On returning to Swansea, Bond was soon jet-setting again, this time to the other side of Europe to play for Swedish team Ostersunds FK, a third division team Swansea had developed a partnership with over the past season after a preseason friendly out in Sweden and having sent young players such as Scott Evans, Kyle Graves and Kerry Morgan over there to play in the previous two seasons. Bond would be moving over to Swedenwith Swansea’s highly rated young full back, James Burgin, for the Swedish preseason before the competitive season’s kick off in April. Martinez once again hailed the opportunity that was given to his players to develop their game in a foreign climate:
“We are delighted that both Chad and James will be able to progress their development in the competitive environment of the Swedish League. We know the setup at Ostersunds inside out because we’ve been working closely with them for the last few seasons.”
Bond played 5 games for the Swedish outfit netting 2 goals whilst with the club. In an interview by Peter Gibson of svenkafans.com when asked what he had learned in his time playing Sweden Bond answered saying:
“Since being here I’ve learned that I am able to adapt to any situation that comes my way in football. If I can come here to a different country and different ways of thinking and still perform, then it gives me the confidence that I can go anywhere and do the same.”
After a short break, Bond returned to Swansea for preseason training in preparation for their first season in the Championship. Bond did not feature once in Swans’ return to the Championship underMartinez.
In the summer of 2009 it was all change at Swansea with Martinez departing for Wigan Athletic and Portuguese legend Paulo Sousa stepping in to the manager’s office. Bond featured throughout preseason under Sousa and made his first competitive appearance for the club, since a cameo in a LDV Van Trophy contest against Rushden and Diamonds in 2003, in a hot-tempered Carling Cup game against Scunthorpe. More surprisingly, Bond made the starting XI for a Championship fixture in September away to Coventry, an important fixture considering the Swans had not notched a single league victory since Sousa had taken over. By now Bond had moved away from being an out and out striker and had developed more as ‘number 10’ behind the striker and against Coventry Bond would replace Kerry Morgan in the starting XI, playing out on the left behind striker Stephen Dobbie. Bond was substituted just after the hour for Kerry Morgan and Swansea would go onto score shortly after and win the game 1-0.
Bond never featured for the Swans again after the fixture at the Ricoh Arena and at the end of the 2009/10 season he was released by the club. Bond opted to join manager Andy Dyer’s increasingly ambitious and wealthy Neath joining a number of ex-Swans at the club, such as Chris Jones, Kristian O’ Leary and Swansea legend Lee Trundle. Bond spent one season at the club before being released and then moving to nearby Llanelli for the 2011/12 season. After 16 appearances for the club Bond moved on loan to Afan Lido to fill the void left by their leading goalscorer Jon Hood.
It was whilst with the Port Talbot based that the possibility of an opportunity to play inLos Angeles came about. A college coach out in LA that hailed from the Neath area happened to know the coach of the LA Blues. Having been put in contact with the coach of the LA Blues via his friend in Los Angeles, Bond was invited over to train with the squad in January. By the end of March Bond was signed to the Blues after terminating his contract with Llanelli by mutual consent.
As mentioned previously, LA Blues are located in the city of Fullerton in California, the 6th largest city in the state, a short journey away from the more prominent LA Galaxy of David Beckham fame. The club are still very much in their nascent stages and they currently play in the Titan Stadium on the campus of California State University. The team is an extension of the woman’s team Pali Blues who were founded in 2008 and have gone on to moderate success in the United States W-Leagues, being regarded as one of the toughest teams in the league largely because of their boisterous supporter’s group: the brilliantly named “Tony Danza Army”. The manager of the Pali Blues, Charlie Naimo, is now coach and vice president of the LA Blues. Naimo is one of the most respected coaches in the American game having developed his coaching in the women’s game having won 3 national championships in the past 12 years. Naimo has now put together a squad at the LA Blues that many pundits feel could challenge for Orlando City’s USL Pro title. On signing for the club this has been recognised by Bond himself:
“Judging by the group we have assembled and by what those who know the league are saying, it seems like we have to aim to win the championship. Personally, I just want to get on the field as much as possible and perform to the best of my abilities to help the Blues do well.”
Naimo claimed that he signed Bond not just for his attacking and creative ability but because of his strong work rate; Naimo stated on the signing of Bond: “Part of the reason we signed Chad is that he’s very responsible about defending.” The coach perhaps displayed how much he rates Bond as a player by giving Bond the number 10 shirt at the club and by describing how he sees Bond as the vital “connecting piece between the midfield and the forwards”. Bond has been at the club for the past month and is settling in well to the area (see our interview with Bond coming up on Lost Boyos shortly). Bond has featured in all of the Blues’ preseason fixtures, scoring in a 60 minute game againstHope International University and in a 5-1 victory against the U.S. U-18 team. Bond looks set to make the starting XI for the club’s opening USL Pro fixture against Rochester Rhinos. Hopefully the inhabitants of LA will be soon be asking “Hey dude! Do you know Chad Bond?” and the reply will be “Yeah man! He’s that awesome Welsh dude that plays for the LA Blues soccer team!”
The USL Pro is now the home of three Lost Boyos with Gareth Evans at Wilmington Hammerheads and Anthony Pulis at Orlando City, so we have the opportunity this year to take in some Lost Boyo v Lost Boyo contests. Best of luck to all three Lost Boyos.
Visit back soon to read our interview with Chad Bond on his move to LA Blues and his times in South Wales, Spain and Sweden. You can follow Chad Bond on Twitter (@chadbond) as well as the LA Blues (@LABLUESPRO)