Fawke targeting top-level action as US adventure revives career
RELEASED from Cheltenham Town aged 18, youth team captain James Fawke had to reassess his options.
While playing at the Youth Alliance League exit trials, he was approached by Missouri State University's football coach Michael Seabolt and the question of playing in America arose.
And so began an 'incredible journey' for Fawke.
He moved to Springfield, Missouri and enrolled at the university to study business management and play American Conference football in a three-year contract.
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Fawke estimates the standard of football he is playing in the US is technically as good as anything he saw when playing with League Two side Cheltenham.
"The standard of football within my conference I would say is as technical as League Two, because of the standard of the coaching," he said.
"But the physical aspects of the game are of the standard of the Conference because the best athletes will be snapped up from a young age to play American football, basketball, and baseball.
"Qualifying out of my conference, I would be playing the best teams throughout America."
Currently out of season, Fawke attends classes in the morning, before doing weights, fitness work, and football training in the afternoon.
During the season, training becomes much more football-orientated and academic work takes a back seat.
The 20-year-old has two years left on his contract and is clear in his ambitions for the future.
"The dream has always been to play football at the top level, whether that means I'm playing in America or England," he said.
"Staying in America all depends on the opportunities I am provided with.
"I could end up living in England or America depending on how my next few seasons go."
Fawke's immediate aim is to win the National Championships with Missouri State.
Following that, he hopes to be selected for the draw of the Major League Soccer which could see him playing for an MLS team.
"The order in which this occurs is the worst MLS team of that year would get first pick of all the teams," he said.
"This keeps the teams balanced so the same team doesn't win the Championship every year."
Fawke hailed the facilities and levels of coaching in American universities as some of the best he has seen.
He believes training centres are much better equipped than those in England.
His coach Michaekl Seabolt is also part of the National Soccer League.
"He is one of the best coaches at this level of play," said Fawke.
"The training I have done since being here has been very good. The way in which we aspire to play is more continental style of football, building it out from the back and retaining possession for long periods.
"We spend an hour per day in the film room analysing and learning from games.
"The length of the training over here is much longer compared to home, as they believe it helps you to build stamina as well as technically and tactically becoming better."
While there are eight other English players on his team from clubs such as Newcastle United and Queens Park Rangers, Fawke believes he has learned more playing against other nationalities.
There are players from Mexico, New Zealand, and the US on Fawke's team, while he has played against Brazilians, Argentinians, Costa Ricans, Germans and Italians.
"In England I never had the chance to play against other nationalities," he said.
"I think this helps me to become a better player because I get to see how all these nationalities play and work together.
"It has been a great learning experience in developing me as a player."
Missouri is a large university city, the university bringing around 30,000 students to the area, and Fawke instantly felt at home.
"The people over here are the friendliest and most welcoming people I've ever met," he said.
"It was easy to meet people, fit in and develop new friendships.
"The American way of life is much more relaxed in their leisure time, but when it comes to getting work done and achieving things, they are very set minded and hard-working.
"The weather is a lot warmer too and I think it only rains about once a month – a breath of fresh air compared to every other rainy day in Cheltenham!"