LONDON (February 12, 2015)—The Chicago Fire’s preseason trip to England has proven extra special to two members of the technical staff who have deep ties to the two host clubs, Queens Park Rangers and Norwich City FC. After spending the first nine days of the trip in Norwich, the team arrived in London on Tuesday to train at QPR’s Imperial College Sports Ground.
Newly-appointed Fire assistant coach Marc Bircham joined QPR as a player in 2002, spent five years at Loftus Road as a player, returned to serve as caretaker manager in December 2009 and was a youth coach until 2014, but his ties run even deeper than his playing and coaching history.
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“For me, QPR has been my life," Bircham said. "My granddad was a QPR fan, as was my dad, he made me and my brothers QPR fans. I’m not just a QPR supporter, I was a QPR fanatic. Bed covers, curtains, everything in my room was QPR. I went to all the games, home and away, so that’s what football was to me. It’s really good to come back now as a coach with a different squad, train at their facility and play against them. It’s a great way to end this preseason trip.”
A defensive midfielder by trade, Bircham was also known for his trademark Mohawk, streaked with QPR’s blue and white colors. Bircham, who appeared in 152 matches for The Hoops, recalled some of the most notable memories from his playing career.
“I scored a goal at Brentford in 2003,” recalled Bircham. “There was quite a bit of a local rivalry and I scored with the last kick of the game to really get us into the playoffs so that was special, but I think getting promoted into the Championship in the last game against Sheffield Wednesday, we had about seven to eight thousand fans there, so to finally do it and get up was the best day of my career.”
The training stint in London caps off the team’s trip to England, which began at Norwich City FC on Feb. 2 and originated through Fire Head of Scouting Trevor James.
“It came into play as I have a close relationship with Neil Adams, who was the manager of Norwich at the time,” James explained. “My family still lives in Norwich, which means I get to go to the club two or three times a year. I was visiting during Christmas time when I was scouting, made the initial contact and then from there we made it work.”
The team stayed at the historic Dunston Hall and even took in Norwich’s 4-0 thrashing of Blackpool at Carrow Road on Feb. 7.
“I was born and grew up in Norwich, so I know what the club means to the local people,” said James. “I’ve had family from grandparents, uncles, father, brother who all played for the club, so it’s pretty special to be able to bring the team over, to show them the football club and show them the city. I was very impressed with everything from our point of view. Our players were first class in everything they did, they promoted the Fire and MLS very well. From the Norwich City Football Club, everything was first class. They looked after us great, the people at the hotel couldn’t have done any more for us, so for me, it was a big success and I’m proud that we were able to take the team to Norwich, and I’m proud that it was a good setting for us to start preseason, so I’m very happy.”