Martin Rennie started his Vancouver Whitecaps FC tenure on Wednesday without any of his own men on the coaching staff. Today, that changes.
Paul Ritchie, Rennie’s assistant at North American soccer League (NASL) club Carolina RailHawks for the last two seasons, will take up the No. 2 role in Vancouver.
The two will be hoping to continue a fruitful relationship that has made the RailHawks one of the most feared sides in second-tier North American soccer. The pair navigated Carolina to a USSF D-2 playoff final last year, and an NASL regular season title this season.
Like Rennie, Ritchie is a 36-year-old Scot relishing the opportunity to build something special in Vancouver.
“I’m looking forward to next season already,” Ritchie told MLSsoccer.com. “We had a few good results near the end of the season and that’s something to build on.
“There were a lot of good performances from a number of players,” he continued. “The new stadium will be a fantastic piece for next year, so when we start our season next year, we want to make that environment is a place people fear to come to. We want to create an environment where people are fearful of Vancouver Whitecaps.”
While the former Hearts defender spoke of creating an intimidating fortress at BC Place, he says Rennie won’t be bringing that sort of attitude to the dressing room when dealing with his own players.
“Martin is completely different than any manager I’ve worked with before,” Ritchie said. “Martin’s positive outlook and positive philosophies, it wasn’t something I was used to as a player. Back in the day, when I was playing, there was a different environment you played in - there was a fear factor with regards to your head coach and manager, but Martin doesn’t have that. If you’re a player, you want to play for Martin.
“It’s been a real eye-opener for me as a coach to realize how to get the best out of players, and that’s something Martin has done over the last few years at Carolina and I’m sure he will do here in Vancouver,” he continued. “That’s why when the opportunity to continue to work with Martin in MLS came, I jumped at the chance.”
Ritchie said his main responsibility as an assistant will be to play that traditional role of buffer between the players and the head coach. But with his Scottish Football Association Youth Licence and experience as manager of the Dundee FC U-19 team, he’ll also have a role in mentoring some of the club’s promising youngsters, as they transition from the Residency program into the first team.
“Having been fortunate enough to play at the level I did, now I believe I can help any player,” the former English Premier League player said. “Younger players, if they have the right attitude, ability and mentality - I will give everything to allow these players to fulfill a dream and play professional soccer.”
The Kirkcaldy, Scotland, native has only been in Vancouver once before, during the 2010 USSF D-2 season, as the RailHawks faced Whitecaps FC, but now he’s looking forward to creating life-long memories.
“It will be good to spend a longer period of time here,” Ritchie said. “I’ve heard so many good things about Vancouver, and I’m just looking forward to spending the next two or three years of my life here, if not longer.
“They’re a fantastically well-supported club. We were fortunate enough to be up here with the RailHawks, and just watching them here there’s a fantastic following.
“There’s great potential here to have a great franchise which can compete at the top level of MLS, and that’s something that Martin and I are looking to achieve - we’re looking to take this club forward, we’re looking to make this club successful, and that’s something that’s very achievable here.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com. Follow@martinmacmahon