The Carolina RailHawks announced Scotsman Martin Rennie as the team’s new head coach. Rennie comes to the Railhawks from the Cleveland City Stars of the USL’s Second Division. At Cleveland, Rennie compiled an impressive record, taking the Stars to the USL-2 semi-finals in his first year and winning the league in his second year. This is clearly a coach who knows how to develop and implement functional tactical systems. Rennie is also noted for his ability to maximize player potential. A high percentage of his acolytes went directly into the MLS or foreign professional leagues following their stint in Cleveland.
Rennie comes to Cary with Europe’s highest coaching qualification: the UEFA “A” license. This is an unusual accomplishment for someone who has yet to begin plucking grey hairs before press conferences. Rennie also carries the UEFA youth license, which will be a huge asset in identifying and developing local talent to bring through the RailHawks’ fledgling development system. He has significant connections with professional teams in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean and suggested that he will immediately look to add to the international character of the RailHawks’ squad.
During today’s well-attended press conference, RailHawks owner and president Brian Wellman identified the synergy between the RailHawks organization and Rennie saying “we are here to deepen our roots in the community, promote a family-friendly soccer environment, and put a championship team on the field. Martin will bring us consistency, a winning attitude, and a proven track record of success.” Wellman was also very clear that the RailHawks are not content to just compete in USL-1 but will continue to bring in top Mexican and MLS teams, and will target the new CONCACAF Champions League which would bring meaningful (and lucrative) international competition to WakeMed Soccer park.
Among the key changes that fans can look for will be a new attitude on the training ground. Rennie gave every indication that he expects players to work within his tactical system and to be committed to team play. The individual midfield peregrinations of Martin Nuñez, Matt Watson and Santiago Fusilier may be a thing of the past. “Winning is not enough,” Rennie said, “we want to win with style and we want to win as a team.”
Fans can expect Rennie’s RailHawks to play a fast tempo game that is possession orientated (vs. lumping the ball forward), that builds from the back, and that works collectively to defend (vs. waiting for Chris McClellan to work miracles in goal). Perhaps the most encouraging statement of the afternoon was when Rennie said, “Winning is nice, but it is much sweeter when you can share the joy with the community.” While the RailHawks represent a bigger stage on which to display his coaching acumen, Rennie seems to understand that he is part of a much larger endeavor.
The RailHawks have a hugely talented group of players to draw from and Rennie will have much work to do in the coming months as he restructures what has been a dysfunctional team culture. The RailHawks will host open tryouts Dec. 13-14 and hope to capture some local talent who are knocking around in the many Latino leagues in the Triangle. Though the 2009 season seems impossibly far away, it began in earnest today. The RailHawks have made a hugely positive step in hiring Martin Rennie: bienvenidos al triangulo, laddie.