TAMPA — In the search for its first coach, the new Tampa Bay Rowdies wanted to find someone who understood the Rowdies' history as well as someone who could produce a successful team and drum up excitement for it.
After looking at 10 candidates last week, the Rowdies hired former player Paul Dalglish, a 32-year-old Scot who played with Newcastle United in England and won two MLS Cups in the United States with Houston.
"After talking to him, it didn't take long to realize he was the perfect fit," said Andrew Nestor, owner and president of the Rowdies, who plan to debut in the United Soccer League's First Division in the spring.
"This sport is my obsession," said Dalglish, who gets his first pro head coaching job. "I've lived and breathed it in the morning and at night. If I'm driving and I see two kids playing, I'll stop. I'm excited about this because it's like having a blank canvas. It will involve a lot of hours, but I think the sense of gratification will be bigger because of it."
Dalglish is the son of Kenny Dalglish, who had an illustrious playing and coaching career that spanned four decades and included three European Cups with Liverpool. He also played for two Scottish World Cup teams.
"I grew up in the corridors of one of the sport's most steepest traditions in Liverpool," Paul Dalglish said. "I grew up the son of one of the best players and managers of one of the best clubs. I know how to respect tradition. I know there's a buzz here because of the tradition the Rowdies have."
With Houston, Dalglish was named the Western Conference final MVP in 2006 after scoring two goals. Dalglish said he wants to craft the Rowdies roster around an attacking style of play with "breathtaking pace."
The Rowdies recently held one of four planned invitation-only player combines, and they have another in the works next month in England.
Dalglish was coaching youth soccer in Houston with the Dynamo's academy team and the Space City Futbol Club. He also has assisted in Liverpool and Blackburn in England. Wednesday evening, Dalglish was driving to the airport to scout the junior college Division I national championships.
"I'm going to look everywhere," Dalglish said. "Good players are out there. We just need to go get them."
Around the same time as its England player combine, the franchise plans to unveil plans for an immediate home field and the location of a new stadium.