The International Impact WVU Men’s Football Brings to the Field | men’s football

The West Virginia men’s soccer team has a large international composition. Of the 28 players on the team, 16 are international students from 11 different countries on three continents.

The team’s technical team also comes from other countries. Coach Dan Stratford and his associate coach – and former teammate – Andy Wright are both from England.

Stratford grew up near London and was at the youth academies of Fulham and Crystal Palace, but ended up playing football and majoring in physical education at WVU from 2004 to 2007. He has been head coach for West Virginia since 2020.

Stratford also had a historic tenure at the University of Charleston, where he became head coach and won two Division 2 National Championships in 2017 and 2019.

Stratford’s journey from abroad to play collegiately in America was very unique for a coach in 2022, not as a player in 2004.

“It just so happened that the West Virginia technical team was there and asked if I would be interested, and I still remember my answer was no because I didn’t know anything about it,” Stratford said. “I didn’t know anyone else who was doing this, so I had to do some research. And eventually, as I learned more, it was an easy yes in the end.”

He added that he wanted to visit the US and that WVU was willing to offer a campus tour.

“Of the schools I had an option, West Virginia was very willing to provide an official visit, and I came over the weekend of July 4, 2004. And I was here as a player a month later,” Stratford said.

While touring the campus, Stratford said he was impressed with the University’s athletic facilities and programs, such as the football fields.

“They showed a lot of trust and faith in me. It was an incredible offer in terms of the scholarship, and I could see the scale of the operation here.” Stratford said. “It was an exciting opportunity.”

Ryan Crooks, a junior winger from England who can play either right or left, leads the climbers in goals (2) and assists (4). Like Stratford, Cooks was originally from England and played at Oxford United Academy until he was 18 years old before coming to the WVU.

Crooks said the opportunity to play football and study was what interested him in WVU college football.

“It was a great opportunity compared to England, where it’s very cruel, either you play or you study. So you can come here and do both at the same time. It was the best option for me,” Crooks said.

For Crooks, the recruitment process was also very different.

“So there are different types of agencies. They have contacts here. Basically, package yourself with your highlights and videos, and get in touch with people they know, and then you just get in touch through that medium. Then emails and text messages, zoom calls,” Crooks said.

“My process was quite difficult because it was [during] COVID, so I couldn’t come visit, everything was done virtually. And these are very exciting times, you have so many people talking to you and you don’t know where you’re going in a new country.”

Crooks said having English teammates and coaches helped him a lot, and that he enjoys the WVU sporting environment.

“It definitely helps me personally, like being English and the coaches being English too. It just brings the culture together as if I knew I would immediately fit in and it would be so much easier,” Crooks said.

“And I love WVU Sports. It’s such a big culture here and that makes it more enjoyable. Things like pre-game breakout and how many fans they get. College sports, you don’t understand that, universities in England, that’s just in the game professional and it’s very different here.”

Leave a Comment