Tuesday 12 Jul
Updated Tuesday 12 Jul 09:00
US Tour 2016

RailHawks anticipate ‘special occasion’

The Carolina RailHawks say West Ham United’s visit is a ‘huge step forward’ in their ambition to bring top-level football to North Carolina
  • Carolina RailHawks host West Ham United in Cary, North Carolina on Tuesday 12 July
  • Pre-season match represents the first time an English Premier League club has visited the State
  • RailHawks are an ambitious North American Soccer League (NASL) side
The Carolina RailHawks say the visit of West Ham United is a ‘huge step forward’ in their ambition to bring top-level professional football to North Carolina.

The RailHawks currently compete in the NASL (North American Soccer League) – the second tier of professional soccer in the United States – but new owner Steve Mauer has the aim of taking the club into the MLS.

President Curt Johnson, head coach Colin Clarke and captain Nazmi Albadawi all believe Tuesday’s sell-out pre-season fixture at 10,000-capacity WakeMed Soccer Park is the next step in working towards that goal.

After a sparkling introduction from ‘Voice of the RailHawks’ Dean Linke, Johnson welcomed the Hammers to The Triangle for their five-day stay.
“We appreciate all the West Ham and RailHawks fans being here for a special occasion and historic game in Cary, North Carolina,” said Johnson.

“This is the first time a Premier League team has played a game against the RailHawks at WakeMed Soccer Park, and is something our owner Steve Mauer and I discussed when he took over the team in October 2015 as a goal, and it’s fantastic to see those aspirations become a reality.

“We have big aspirations for professional soccer in North Carolina and this is a huge step towards achieving our goals on and off the field. We look forward to a packed house on Tuesday night, a competitive game for the players and a great occasion for the fans.”

Clarke, who enjoyed a successful 12-year playing career with Southampton, Portsmouth and Northern Ireland, is the RailHawks’ longest-serving head coach, is also relishing the opportunity to face a team he scored against three times for the Saints.

“I want to welcome Slaven, Mark and his staff and players. It’s great to have you here and you can feel the excitement starting to build for Tuesday’s game; it’s going to be a very special occasion.

“I’m just looking forward to watching our players step onto the field against a world-class team and see what they’re all about. The most important thing is that we all have a good night and come away from it injury-free.

“We wish West Ham all the best in their season. They have a new Stadium and plenty of new signings and are moving onto bigger and better things. It’s an exciting time for them.”

Talented captain and Raleigh, North Carolina native Albadawi is the RailHawks’ standout midfielder and the leading chance-maker in the NASL this season, and cannot wait to lead his team out against ‘one of the best teams in the world’ on Tuesday.

“It’s amazing to be here as I’ve looked up to Mark as a player as he plays for one of the best teams in the world and I watch him almost every weekend on a Saturday morning,” he began. “It’s a great opportunity to play against him as a player, as I want to try to get to as high a level as I can, and I can find out where I am by playing against one of the best midfielders in the world.

“Their support goes a long way, as we’ve seen a lot of West Ham jerseys out here, so it’s going to be a great experience and we can’t wait to get going.”