MIAMI, Fla. (Oct 4, 2012) - Tampa Bay Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill has earned the inaugural North American Soccer League Coach of the Year Award, given annually to the best coach in NASL as voted by media and soccer writers nationwide. Head Coach Tim Hankinson of the NASL Regular Season Champion San Antonio Scorpions finished second in the voting.
“This is well deserved and I’m glad the voters got it right,” said Rowdies President and General Manager Andrew Nestor. “Ricky is a humble teacher of the game, yet also a strong and steady leader, creating an environment in which our players can thrive. In two seasons with Ricky we have two trips to the playoffs and two Fair Play Awards largely due to Ricky’s leadership and commitment.”
In Hill’s second season as Head Coach, the Rowdies finished second in the 2012 NASL Regular Season with 45 points, just two points behind first-placed San Antonio. Tampa Bay enters the 2012 NASL Playoffs having only lost two of the last 17 matches of the season.
“It is a great honor to be the first recipient of this award, especially with the number of talented coaches around the league,” said Hill. “I want to thank every person that makes up this organization as they work hard to make this organization successful. Of course, I want to thank the fans for always supporting the team, and most importantly the team itself. They are the ones who take what I show them in practice, and implement it on the field. Without them, I would not have received this award and I thank them for their efforts throughout the season.”
The 2012 Rowdies have had prolific success at home, as Tampa Bay posted a 7-6-1 (W-T-L) record at Al Lang Stadium, while finishing the regular season with a ten-game home unbeaten streak. In fact, since hired for the head coaching position before the start of the 2011 season, the Rowdies have been one of the league’s best at home. Tampa Bay has a home regular season mark of 14-9-5 since the start of the 2011 season and has lost just twice in their last 20 regular season home games.
With Hill at the helm, the Rowdies were awarded their second consecutive Fair Play Award by the NASL for the 2012 season. During the 2012 season, a Tampa Bay player received a weekly NASL offensive or defensive award 12 times, the most for any team in the league in 2012. Goalkeeper Jeff Attinella received a league-high five Defensive Player of the Week awards, tied for most overall with San Antonio’s Pablo Campos, who has claimed the offensive award five times.
“For the last two years he has been great to all of us,” said Rowdies Captain Frankie Sanfilippo. “He knows how to prepare us for games both mentally and physically, and also knows when to give us rest when needed. He constantly tells us to give it our all on the field, but to not get involved in any confrontations and just play the game, which is the main reason why we have been recognized for our fair play both in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.”
Hill, who hails from London, 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 U-21 team as well as the senior national team between 1982 and 1986. 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. He took the team to two national championships and was named 1992 Coach of the Year.
After two years with the Rowdies he returned to England, coaching the U-17 and U-19 teams for Sheffield Wednesday and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively. Hill has also coached in the Trinidad & Tobago Professional Football League where he was awarded Coach of the Year in 2003. Hill was hired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Rowdies on January 18, 2011.
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