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Duncan using his Villa roots to branch out in top transatlantic role.

MIGHTY oaks from little Acorns grow.

Duncan Riddle knows that only too well having been the man responsible for sowing the seeds of Villa's ground-breaking link-up with Acorns Children's Hospices.

After taking chairman Randy Lerner on a tour of the respite centres it planted an idea which led to Villa being the first Premier League club to give over their shirt sponsorship to a charity.

And after seeing that pioneering partnership go from strength to strength, Riddle is now hoping to bring about similar growth in his new role across the pond in Chicago.

Riddle, who up until recently was employed as Villa's head of community, has now taken on a new challenge as the executive director of the United States Adult Soccer Association.

"My role is to lead the development and growth of adult soccer in the US," said Riddle, who was there to greet his Villa friends at their hotel when they arrived in the Windy City yesterday.

"This is done by encouraging players to continue playing after university, building relationships with the MLS to help them build the fan base and providing leagues, competitions and tournaments that cater for all age and ability levels.

"The biggest challenge is the sheer size of the US and the regional differences.

"Generally the North East, the New York area, has very competitive leagues whose teams will pay to travel across the country to play in cups. The west coast has a larger group of players who are more recreational and play for fun."

The upheaval of swapping Birmingham for Chicago has not been too severe for Riddle, whose wife was born in the American city and whose in-laws are based just two hours away in Milwaukee.

But he still retains a fondness for his former club and says playing a part in the Acorns arrangement was his proudest moment at Villa.

"I miss the people at AVFC," he said. "It's a close-knit team behind the scenes. "The launch of the Acorns shirt deal was very special as we were the first Premier League club to commit so publicly to a charity and, more importantly, a local one.

"I began to develop the partnership with Acorns around the time Randy bought the club. The work of the staff at Acorns and the passion for the children shown by David Strudley, the CEO, was inspirational and we had plans to support where we could.

"Randy Lerner immediately felt the energy about the place and the rest is history."

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Duncan Riddle was behind Acorns project.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jul 20, 2012
Words:424
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