The NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies announced the signing of Head Coach Ricky Hill to a three year contract, through the 2016 season, superseding the one-year contract extension signed in December 2013. The former England international just entered his fourth season with the Rowdies after joining the club in 2011.
“In my opinion Ricky is the best coach in any league, anywhere” said club principal owner Bill Edwards. “I felt compelled to have the very best coach for the Rowdies. I am proud and happy that Ricky has agreed to move permanently to the St. Petersburg area with his wife and family”
Hill, who hails from England, began his soccer career at the age of 17 playing for Luton Town Football Club in 1976, scoring in his professional debut against Bristol Rovers. He played for Luton until 1989, making 436 League appearances and scoring 54 goals.
Hill represented England several times on the national youth teams and the Under-21 team, as well as earning three caps with the Senior National Team between 1982 and 1986. From 1989 to 1991, Hill played for Le Havre FC in France and Leicester City FC in England before signing with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1991 as a player and coach. In 1992, Hill was named Coach of the Year and a member of the ASL All-Star Team.
From there, Hill was head coach of the Under-19 and Under-17 teams for Sheffield Wednesday and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively, managing several current or former English Premier League players.
"I'm absolutely delighted to commit myself to a longer period with the Rowdies,” said Hill. “They have always been a spiritual home for me going back to the 1990’s when they gave me my first opportunity as a coach and as a player. I'm delighted that Mr. Edwards has shown faith in me in regards to believing that I'm the person that can assist him in taking the club forward into the new era. I'd like to thank not just the fans we have at Al Lang Stadium, but also beyond in the Rowdies family who've treated me with nothing but tremendous respect and love and appreciation. I thank them and I hope I can do them proud over this three-year period and win further championships."
Hill’s coaching style, which combines passion with discipline, has benefited the organization since his arrival. His drive to maintain possession of the ball has led the Rowdies to play one of the most dynamic styles of soccer in the North American Soccer League (NASL). Both fans and league officials have noticed.
In 2011, Hill’s first year with the club, the Rowdies defeated the Bolton Wonders of the English Premier League and Hill guided the club to the NASL quarterfinals. That same year the Rowdies earned the NASL Fair Play award, given to the team with the fewest Yellow and Red Card point totals. In 2012, he coached the club to a thrilling shoot-out victory in the NASL Soccer Bowl and earned the inaugural 2012 NASL Coach of the Year Award. The Rowdies were also awarded their second consecutive Fair Play Award for the 2012 season.
“I could not be more pleased with the extension of Ricky’s contract,” added club general manager Perry Van Der Beck. “His leadership style, mentoring skills and in-depth knowledge of the game have been proven keys to the club’s accomplishments. The Rowdies are poised for more future successes with Ricky at the helm. This also acknowledges the commitment from ownership in support of achieving our goals.”