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The Gaffer: What Kind of Coach is John Spencer?

I was looking at our roster and was wondering who would be the most influential in terms of the teams' style of play. The only name that really jumped out at me was Kenny Cooper. Then it hit me: at first the most influential person would be the coach. I admit this should have been obvious but like most fans I was really focused on our players.

The Gaffer, as the Brits say - or as we call him the Coach - has given us glimpses into what style of play he wants to see. But first let's get to know our Gaffer.

If you can't tell John Spencer was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland.  Hey, sometimes I can't tell the difference in accents so I can't blame you if you couldn't. Like most Brits Scots do he played soccer from a young age. At some point he caught the interest of some of the bigger clubs in Scotland. Eventually he ended up signing with one of the Old Firm, the Glasgow Rangers, in 1985. This in and of itself was controversial. Not to get into a huge history lesson but the Rangers' supporters are generally Protestant and John was raised Catholic. Catholics in general supported Glasgow Celtic. The huge rivalry that those two share is alive and well while the occasional violence that went on has, thank heaven, largely died down.

Spencer remained a fringe player for the Rangers and at one point was even loaned out to a team in Hong Kong called Lai Sun.  Finally, in 1992, he was sold to Chelsea.  Yes that Chelsea. However at the time Chelsea was middle of the pack in the English Premier League. (Trivia note: that is the first year of the title Premier League). To put into perspective how good the EPL was at the time Leeds United lasted the longest in the Champions League, losing to the Rangers in the second round. (Check it out here) (Also check out the standings)

Spencer's time at Chelsea are his best time spent overseas. He made 103 appearances while scoring 36 goals. During his stint at Stamford Bridge he received 14 caps with the Scottish National Team. After five seasons with Chelsea he spent the next three seasons moving from team to team [from Queens Park Rangers (23 apps and 5 goals) to Everton (3 apps and 0 goals) and finally ending up back in his home country with Motherwell (33 apps and 11 goals)].

After his career in Great Britain came to an end he spent three seasons with the Colorado Rapids. These three seasons are by far the best of his entire career. He appeared in 88 games and tallied 37 goals. He created such a fan following in Colorado they inducted Spencer to the Rapids Gallery of Honor. Check out this video they created of his highlights.

After his playing career ended Spencer joined the Houston Dynamo Staff as an assistant, which is where we found him when we asked him to be our coach. You might ask what his credentials are as an assistant? Well he won the Reserve League Championship with a kid named Wondolowski. Yep, that same one who just won the Golden Boot last year.

Some odd trivia: John Spencer has a brother-in-law who manages Nottingham Forest. Yes, the same Nottingham Forest that signed Robbie Findley. Care to take a guess who may have alerted Forest about Findley? 

The Gaffer's Team

So now that we know some background about Spencer I want to get into what he wants our players to be like.

Lets start with what he thinks of himself.  In Soccer America he is quoted saying, "My mentality was to be the hardest-working guy in practice every day and lead by example."

This shows he is hard-nosed. He will want a player that will put in the effort and not be there just collecting a pay-check. The player who epitomized this when I was growing up was Brian McBride. I mean just look at this pic.  The Timbers will not be a team that gets out-worked. We are going to fight for every ball. I like that.

To back this thought up there is this quote from Spencer in the Oregonian as he speaks past the reporter to the public and specifically to the fans:

"On that field, we're gonna work for you and we're gonna die for you,"

Here is what others have said about him, specifically his own boss, Dominic Kinnear (coach of the Houston Dynamo) in the Oregonian.

"They (would be) getting a guy, who more than anything else, wants to win," Kinnear said. "He puts a lot of work and effort into his job. He expects the same thing from his players."

Again, he wants players willing to work. You have played those teams before, the ones that never go away. I hated those teams, but they get results. In MLS the adage is "win at home, tie on the road". We need players that don't quit when they are down in a hostile environment. We need players that get "stuck in" to borrow a phrase from my playing days. To get "stuck in" means you have the mentality that you are going to win every 50/50 ball. You are going to win every header. No one, and I mean no one is getting by you without giving you their two front teeth and some skin.

Which brings us to the style or formation the Timbers will play.  I can guess it would be attacking in nature since Spencer was a forward in his playing days. It could be a 4-4-2, or a 4-3-3, He has mentioned both. Yet it all depends on the personnel. Kinnear gave us some insight as to a possibility.

"One of the things we've always enjoyed has been to play an up-tempo game, apply pressure and make the game uncomfortable for the (opposition) on both sides of the ball," Kinnear said. "He can coach that way and it would be entertaining for the fans in Portland."

Kinnear supports the concept that players be willing to put in the work and recognizes Spencer will demand the same. As the last line states, Spencer can coach an uptempo attacking style. We still have to wait and see exactly what style of play appears on the pitch. One thing we know for sure is that our players are going to be modeled after their "little, old, fat Scotsman" of a gaffer. Work hard and die for the team.

I can't wait.

Now that we've talked about our roster and our coach, let's talk next time about the twelfth man, us fans.


Note: I obtained all of John Spencer's bio information here