Eddie Lewis on his time with Fulham, USMNT and life after football with TOCA

Eddie Lewis spent eight years playing in England between spells with San Jose Clash and Los Angeles Galaxy – as well as going to two World Cups with the United States national side.

The versatile left-sided midfielder and defender joined Mohamed Al-Fayed's revolution at Fulham back in February of 2000, helping the club into the Premier League while playing alongside the likes of Louis Saha, Chris Coleman and Luis Boa Morte.

Lewis would go on to spend two years at Craven Cottage before enjoying spells with Preston, Leeds and Derby, and has since had an impact on the London entertainment scene with the world's first interactive football and dining experience.

Lewis told Daily Star Sport of his move to England following three years with San Jose Clash: "Fulham were in the second tier at the time and for me I always wanted to be playing at the highest level available and it felt like the centre of it all in the UK.

"What I love about it is that you can go all the way to the top or crash out, there is no limit either way. So any opportunity for me to get aboard was what I was looking for."

Fulham would go on to reach the top flight following a sensational 101-point tally in the old Football League Division 1 under the guidance of iconic former France midfielder Jean Tigana.

Lewis added: "Fulham at the time was when Mohamed Al-Fayed was hoping to turn them into the Manchester United of the south and all the rest so he had the desire and resources.

"Sadly the manager that brought me there left five or six weeks later, but either way it was an incredible experience.

"Playing alongside some fantastic players (like Louis Saha) and Edwin van der Sar was the goalkeeper, there were some really good characters like Cookie (Chris Coleman), Lee Clark and others, they were a tonne of fun and had real quality.

"In fact Steed Malbranque maybe didn't get the attention he should've, day in day out he was one of the most amazing players I've ever been around."

Should Premier League clubs be eyeing up US starlets? Tell us in the comments section

Lewis would leave Fulham in the summer of 2002, going on to make another 200 Football League appearances while starring for the USMNT under Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley.

He adds: "Between Preston, Leeds and Derby I had the opportunity to spend time in many areas of the country and I think probably Leeds was my favourite despite it not being a great time for the club.

"I did really like the atmosphere and the environment as well as the intensity around Elland Road, that was something that was hard to replicate.

"But all of them had so many unique experiences and certainly as an American abroad they are all great times."

Lewis scored 10 goals across 82 international outings between 1996 and 2008, helping the US into the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup and playing a key role in their 2010 qualification.

He recalls: "Any chance to get back together with the national team and be around the other American guys was special.

"Certainly the Gold Cup was fun and going to two World Cups which were incredible experiences and hopefully we helped pave the way for other Americans to come abroad."

The end of his career came following a spell with LA Galaxy, during which he would play alongside David Beckham and against Lionel Messi while winning the MLS Western Conference Championship.

Something Lewis was passionate about during his playing days was his small-ball philosophy – and how using a tennis ball helped him improve his close control and skill set.

Lewis was the mastermind behind TOCA Football, a comprehensive training program aimed at helping young footballers of all abilities reach their potential using a smaller ball.

Lewis also spotted an opportunity to create a social experience unlike any other by using the same technology that is used in their 16 centres in the United States.

With the first TOCA Social venue of its kind opening last summer at The O2 in Greenwich, the team have also announced a Birmingham venue with plans for more sites for their football experience that is combined with a modern americana menu as well as cocktails, beers and soft drinks.

Lewis said of the process: "As a professional player I used to train with a tennis ball machine to work on my touch and sharpen up my skills.

"Fast forward to the end of my career and I wanted to bring that concept to more footballers.

"So I spent some time engineering a product, which was a little more soccer/football specific.

"A couple of years later I launched that product, which is still doing really well with 16 centres in the United States and we're very committed to the training side.

"Along the way we found that no matter who came in to train, wether it was a young person or a professional they would always have friends or relatives that always wanted to join in.

"So there was always something about the engagement and the experience of it, and full credit to the team in the UK who have really taken that concept and ran with it."

For bookings go to www.toca.social and follow on Instagram @tocasocial.

Source: Read Full Article