TAMPA — The FC Tampa Bay soccer club has turned to a former Tampa Bay Rowdie to be coach.
The team named Ricky Hill, a player/coach for the Rowdies for two seasons in 1991-92, on Tuesday to replace Paul Dalglish, who was fired with two games left in the team's inaugural season.
With the Rowdies in 1992, Hill was named the American Soccer League coach of the year as well as an All-Star midfielder. In coaching the team, the English-born Hill, 51, promises an offensive-minded brand of soccer.
"I think generally my teams have been quick passing sides," Hill said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a very simple game. There's no real rocket science. … I like my teams to have a cohesive unit and to create a number of opportunities for a number of people — strikers, midfield players, defenders."
He has spent most of his playing and coaching career in England. He played professionally for 17 years, mostly with Luton Town F.C. from 1976 to 1989, scoring 54 goals for the Hatters. And he was a member of Luton's second-division championship in 1981.
"Ricky has the right mix of experience and knowledge of our league to lead this club," team president Andrew Nestor said in a news release.
Hill returned to England to manage Luton in 2000, but his term lasted just 21 games as the team went 2-11-8. Hill coached the Under-19 Sheffield Wednesday and U-17 Tottenham Hotspur teams, managing several current English Premier League players. Hill was appointed technical director of CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh in the Trinidad & Tobago Professional Football League. He coached amateur teams in London that, he said, produced six future pro players. He also worked in sports management as an agent and adviser.
Hill has limited coaching experience in the United States but said being the director of coaching for the former USL PDL entry Cocoa Expos and an assistant at Division II college Florida Tech will help his adjustment to the U.S. Division 2 level.
"From my experience there, American soccer players are very conscientious, very hard working, very determined," he said. "I believe with the right guidance, you can work together and create something beautiful."
Hill is slated to arrive in Tampa in early February. He knows he'll have to work quickly before the preseason begins in March. And last year's prompt removal of Dalglish would seem to set the bar high for Hill.
"I don't want to sit here and say we're the favorites for the championship," Hill said. "I think we need to build a side as quickly as we can. We need every member of the organization pulling in the same direction. I'm a great believer that if we do what we're good at, then the opposition has to worry about us more than we do about them."
FIELD OF PLAY: The team is holding a news conference today to announce it will play home games at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg in 2011, as first reported by the Times.