EVERTON boss David Moyes kicked off the 30th International Milk Cup on Sunday - and admitted it was a special kind of homecoming.
The Toffees boss admitted being a little embarrassed by the enormous crowds who had turned out to welcome the teams through Coleraine town centre on a balmy summer evening.
Thousands lined the streets of Coleraine to welcome teams from as far away as New Zealand, Japan, South America, Africa and Europe as they paraded past the statue of the competition’s founding father Bertie Peacock to the Showgrounds where Moyes unfurled the Milk Cup flag.
“This should be all about the players and I’m happy that they were being so well received too,” added the Toffees boss who took his place at the head of the parade of 46 competing teams.
“It’s like a homecoming for me. My mother was from Portrush and I often come here to visit. I love the place and the people.
“I think she would be very proud of the fact that I am opening the Milk Cup.”
Moyes, whose mother Joan died a few years ago, was joined by his father, David senior, an Everton scout and other family members at Coleraine Showgrounds for the event’s welcome ceremony.
He said: “My father has been coming here for years. He loves the competition and comes back telling me about players he has seen.
“This is a fabulous competition with a worldwide reputation and it is important to our club because we are big on youth development.
“Our Academy is a vital part of our club and competing at events like this is a big part of assisting players to become better.
“So many of our players have touched the tournament over the years and when you look at the players at other clubs who have made names for themselves at the Milk Cup it is impressive.”
Moyes reckons the competition, marking its 30th year, plays an important part in the tourist sector.
“I think Northern Ireland should be proud of the Milk Cup. It is not only vital for the local economy but it has a great reputation and brings people here from all over the world,” he said.
“I was amazed at the reception the players received from the crowds in the street. All the football people came out and you feel it is so important to them to give a warm welcome to their visitors.
“The fact that teams from all over the world are here is great credit to the organisers who deserve to celebrate their success in sustaining a high calibre of teams over 30 years.”
Moyes father, David senior, added: “There is a great atmosphere about it.”
The action started on Saturday with County teams playing at home before they arrived on the north coast.
Milk Cup chairman Victor Leonard said: “The parade was fantastic.
“People turned out in big numbers to greet the players and they lapped it up.
“For many of the competitors the opening event is a highlight that they never ever forget.”