Thanks for all of your questions for FC Tampa Bay head coach Ricky Hill. We sat down with the head coach earlier this week and here is what he had to say in response to some of the questions that were submitted over the last week.
How will you handle the players at the end of the regular season, with three games in eight days, before starting the playoffs?
RH: “Well, the good thing is that we have a full complement of players to choose from, so we will possibly have 22 players fit and ready to be involved. So we treat every game with its merit and in respect to the result against Minnesota, I guess everybody will put themselves available for Puerto Rico. I guess the most important thing is after the game to do conditioning management to assure that the players have enough rest in between games, enough nutrition and fluid of the right types to come back healthy on the second game, and likewise again depending on what happens on that, win, lose or draw, we’ll have to do the same thing again for the final home game against the Strikers.”
Who has been the team’s Most Improved Player this season?
RH: “That’s a very hard question. There’s been a number of players that have come on since preseason and I think it would be tough for me to just single out one. But I guess a few of the ones that possibly stick out at this time: Mozzi Gyorio, Keith Savage, Shane Hill and Jeff Attinella for sure. I think Jeff’s probably been the most pleasing because goalkeeper is a very, very critical position of any team and generally people pick the goalkeepers before they pick the captains so it’s a vital position assigned for one so young in experience. After Daryl Sattler went down with the injury, Jeff has performed so admirably throughout the year and if I had to pick one, I’d say Jeff has been the one that’s been fantastic.”
What are your thoughts on adding a target striker with more speed for next season?
RH: “We’ve got four or five excellent strikers here, we’ve got Kerry Baptiste, as well as Mike Ambersley, Aaron King, Matt Clare and Warren Ukah, and each of these strikers have their own strengths and weaknesses. King gives us a little bit of the ability to play on the shoulder of defenders and run away from defenders at times, over the course of this year he’s also come on well. As the season has progressed he’s gotten stronger, he’s gotten more disciplined, and he’s committed to what he’s doing and he’s done very, very well. Mike is an all-around player. He can run behind people but his strengths are to come and link and make the play and be that forward player that can bring other players into the game. As a former midfield player, there’s nothing better than to receive the ball coming onto it after the strikers hold the ball up and managing to protect it against his own defender.”
How long do you plan to stay at FC Tampa Bay?
RH: “As long as I’m welcome… as long as everyone thinks I’m doing a reasonable job and the front office and players are happy with what I’m doing, then I’m delighted to be here. I didn’t want to go back to England when I was here in 1993. Unfortunately the franchise was a little bit different then with the Rowdies. Although I managed to receive the Coach of the Year award in that season, I wasn’t offered a new contract for the following season so that’s just the fact of life. So I’ve come full circle now and I’m very delighted to be back in Tampa and I’ve got no need to look over my shoulder to move anywhere else.”
Can you compare the other venues in the NASL from a coaching standpoint and your experience on the road?
RH: “I’ve been very happy¸ and I think the players are very happy with the cordial manner of how all the players and the staff have been treated away from Al Lang Stadium. It’s been first class, and all the organizations have been on point in regards of preparing what we need there. They’ve all been very accommodating in facilitating those things for us, so it’s been a pleasure in regards to going there. They’re all good venues, they’re all nice. Of course the Astroturf is something that if you’re used to playing on grass then it takes a little bit of adjustment. Now I experienced it for four years when I was playing in Luton Town and I had no problem with it. It was our home field, and we played every other week there. I quite enjoyed it and I think that if you go in with the right mentality to approaching it and you go out there and you try to do your best and you play the simple things as we encourage people to do, then that shouldn’t pose any problems. So overall all the setups have been very nice, very impressive, and as I say, the hospitality that we’ve received has been first class.”
Are you happy with your first season with FC Tampa Bay?
RH: “I’m not totally happy with the first season because of course the season isn’t over yet. We’ve lost eight games this season, and I don’t like to lose games and in my coaching career I’ve tended to not lose as many in the season. But again, everything varies from team to team and the ability of every team. The plus point in regard to the losses is that we have sustained has been we’ve lost four games to Carolina which again, hurts me immensely because I don’t think they’re 12 points better than us over a four-game period. I just think in those games we’ve always managed to shoot ourselves in the foot, initially to give them a head start, a first goal which is always vital in any game. We’ve lost two to Puerto Rico at home, again which hurts. We shouldn’t lose at home. Outside of that we’ve managed to stay upbeat against a majority of the other teams and I think it’s been a very good showing from the players overall. I think we have all improved over the course of the season which is only to be expected, but the thing I’m really pleased about is the effort that the players have put in up to this point, the character that they’ve shown and their professionalism. I’ve been happy with that.”
What is your overall opinion of the NASL?
RH: “It’s a mixed bag in terms of styles of play which is always good because not every team plays the same way. I’ve been pleased with the spirit of the game and how the game is played. We can’t remember many altercations on the field or carrying on between both sides. I think the friendship and the camaraderie has been good although it’s been competitive but we always encourage that part of it, that you play hard but you play fair, and I think overall it has been that. The Strikers like to play a style of short passes and movement and quite pretty that this moment in time they do very well as a team. To Carolina, who is solid, dependable, experienced, organized, and to Montreal, who likewise over the season have improved. All teams have had their moments throughout the season where they’ve had good spells and some indifferent spells at times. It’s been a very good experience for me; I think our side has relished it and I think we are improving as a group of people together, and I’m hoping we can sustain and maintain our current momentum as long as it goes to the end of the season.”