As I wrote earlier today for the Tampa Tribune, the Tampa Bay Rowdies have appointed Paul Dalglish to be the first manager in the club’s new era in the United Soccer League’s First Division.
To put on my opinion-writer hat for a moment, instead of my normal reporter hat, I’d like to commend what I think should be a good, and very well may be an excellent hire for the Rowdies.
There may be some who are going to point to the fact that this is Dalglish’s first managerial appointment as a knock on him, and the Rowdies hiring him. Only this week the Rochester Rhinos, a team the Rowdies will face entering the USL-1 next season, appointed Bob Lilley as their new manager. Lilley has prior experience in the USL, taking every side he has coached in the league to the playoffs, twice being named Coach of the Year and winning the league title in 2006 with Vancouver. But when it comes to soccer management, while prior experience can give you a blueprint for how you will manage your new team, it is no guarantee of future success.
Neither is being the son of a legendary player and manager. But with that experience of being around not just the soccer you and I grew up with as youngsters, but the professional game as Dalglish did, you would expect he understands more than most the rigors that come not only with playing the game, but being a top-quality manager. Add in the expertise he will be able to gather from Rowdies Technical Director Perry Van Der Beck, and the way he is reported to have thrown himself into the job since his appointment, and you have someone who could get results quickly.
How quickly? Let’s not go around thinking the Rowdies will win the USL-1 in their first season. The league is a tough one, even if the breakaway group of six does form its own league. Its clubs have had success in the CONCACAF Champions League, and three, Seattle currently and Portland and Vancouver in 2011, will either have moved up to join Major League Soccer, or will be about to. But when I asked Dalglish if it was reasonable to expect the Rowdies to contend in their first season, his first two words in response said a lot.
Of course, he went on to point out, as coaches so often do, how it is going to take a lot of hard work for the team to achieve that goal, but the fact that he would something like that says a lot, at least to me, about the way he’s going to approach this job. This may be an expansion franchise in name, but as MLS found with the Seattle Sounders this season, with the right players, the right coach and the support of a city, good things can happen quickly.