By Clemente Lisi -- When former Houston Dynamo striker Paul Dalglish was named head coach of FC Tampa Bay last November, it marked the start of a new career path for the journeyman Scotsman with an enviable parental lineage. Indeed, the 32-year-old son of Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish is on a new mission to try and lead the Rowdies to the USSF Second Division title this year.
Dalglish played for 13 teams over a 13-year career, including English clubs Newcastle and Wigan, but was a standout for the Dynamo and helped lead them to the 2006 MLS Cup title. His playing career ended a year later when Dalglish was plagued by injuries as the Dynamo won another league title.
I spoke with Dalglish about how it felt to grow up with such a famous Dad, his weekends spent at Anfield Road, his career in this country, and his dream of becoming a coach.
What was it like growing up having a father who was such a great player?
I know people must think it was amazing for me, but the truth is that it was normal. To me, he was just my dad. Every boy looks up to his dad growing up. Only in my case, my father happened to be one of the best players in the world playing for one of the best teams in the world. Like I said, every boy looks up to his dad. I attended many memorable games, including league and cup matches. I guess I wished that I’d savored and cherished those moments more when I was a child.
This is your first foray into coaching. What sort of coach do you think you’ll be?
I’ve got much more confidence in myself being a coach than I ever did as a player. I always played because I liked the game, but I always wanted to coach and enter management, even when I was a player. I want to be a good coach and one that gets the most out of his players. I really do enjoy coaching rather than playing.
What do people in Europe think of you coaching soccer in America?
The grass is always greener on the other side. There are a lot of players in Europe who want to play here and a lot of Americans who want to play in Europe. Unless you’re an American who is going to play in the Premiership of La Liga or Serie A, then you’re better off staying here rather than playing in some lower leagues. The perception in Europe, when it comes to Americans and soccer, is nowhere near the reality. Americans deserve a lot more respect than they get. For example, American goalkeepers are valued because of what they’ve done in the past. Now, players like Landon Donovan need to show that even American strikers are players that should be valued.
You won back-to-back MLS Cups with Houston in 2006 and 2007. What is the perception of MLS on the other side of the pond?
Everyone just thinks of David Beckham. Beckham! Beckham! Beckham! Beckham! The truth is he hasn’t won an MLS Cup. He hasn’t won the league MVP trophy. Don’t get me wrong, he’s one of the best players England has ever produced, but he hasn’t been able to do much here. He has struggled, and that’s a testament to the quality of the players and the league. This is a credit to MLS.
The Rowdies are back playing after 17 years. They, along with the New York Cosmos, once dominated the old NASL. What’s it like to be associated with such a famous American team?
Yes, with Rodney Marsh and all that history. Being associated with a famous brand is nothing new for me. My last name was a brand. I’m used to it. I’m used to the pressure.
What is your coaching and tactical philosophy?
I prefer an attacking style. Not reckless, but attack-minded football. I grew up watching Liverpool during the 1980’s and that really captured my imagination. They had wonderful players who knew how to move the ball. Players like John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, Ian Rush and Ray Houghton. It was football from the back that pushed forward.
The US got England in the World Cup draw. What kind of game do you think it will be?
I think it’s a brilliant opportunity for the Americans, especially MLS players who will want to prove themselves. This will be their opportunity. I think the Americans will try a little harder in this game. I’m looking forward to it. I’m really excited to see how we stack up.
You said we. Are you rooting for the USA?
I’m more American than I am English. My wife is American!
Who do you think will win the World Cup this summer?
Spain, in my opinion, will win it all. Fernando Torres, a great Liverpool player, is truly amazing. Plus, they have so many great players they can turn to. They have so much strength and depth. I hope they can break their World Cup jinx. They are great to watch. I’d love to see Torres score the winner in the final. Since Scotland did not qualify, Spain is my second favorite country at the World Cup.
You spent part of December scouting players in England. Are there any prospects over there that you hope to bring over to Tampa?
We have been able to look at a few players that we’d like to sign for the new season. I’d like to thank Liverpool’s academy for allowing us to train with them and look at their players. Hopefully, we can get the contracts signed. I will also scout players locally. I will look to get players anywhere I can get them.