Back in 1996, a young Adrian Heath took over as manager of then English third division side Burnley at the beginning of his managerial career, following his retirement as a player. Now, nearly 20 years later, Heath is in a position that he has hardly ever been in.
Having had five different managerial jobs before coming to Orlando, Heath really never had a season quite like Orlando is having right now. Back when he was in England, Heath only served as Burnley's player manager for one season, helping them to a ninth-place finish out of 24 teams. Two years later, Heath managed Sheffield United through their first 23 games before being replaced midway through the season. A stint as caretaker for two years in 2005 and 2007 for Coventry City was the only other time he spent as the head man in England.
As I said before, Heath has rarely been in a situation like the current Orlando City team is been experiencing, although his first year in the U.S. could be a possible comparison. After coming to the States in 2008 to take over the Austin Aztex for their inaugural season in 2009, Heath was thrust into a new situation in a new league that he was not familiar with. The team wasn't able to get its bearings the first year and finished 10th out of 11 teams in the USL.
Now, the second year for the club was a complete turnaround. The Aztex finished second in the USL Conference of the USSF Division 2, falling only one point behind the league-leading Rochester Rhinos. By this time, Heath had a good core group of players that he was able to rely on and could play them, knowing they would go out on the field and perform well. These players then came with Heath to Orlando and the team was able to flourish for the next four years, all built around the same core group of guys from Austin.
Going into this inaugural year in MLS for Orlando, it is very much reminiscent of Heath's time with the Aztex back in 2009. It is a new league with a new core group of players that haven't been able to perform on a regular basis. With any kind of team, it takes time to develop chemistry and trust between teammates.
This is the same for the manager. It's silly to expect everything to just fall into place between the players and coaches. Considering all the things that have happened in this inaugural season -- the injuries, the inconsistent play and acclimation periods for younger players -- it's hard to say that anyone else in Heath's position could do better.
If history has anything to say about what will happen with Orlando City next year, the Lions will be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. Inchy will make sure of that.
Also, here's a handy little graph detailing Heath's coaching records from his first job until now. Graph outline courtesy of Wikipedia.
|Burnley||7 March 1996||27 June 1997||71||26||18||27||36.62%|
||15 June 1999||23 November 1999||23||7||5||11||30.43%|
|Coventry City||6 January 2005||23 January 2005||3||1||0||2||33.33%|
|Coventry City||17 January 2007||19 February 2007||5||1||1||3||20.00%|
|Austin Aztex||1 February 2008||2010 (Orlando)||68||24||15||29||35.29%|
|Orlando City SC (USL)||2011||2014||122||82||23||17||67.21%|
|Orlando City SC (MLS)||2015||Present||25||7||11||7||28.00%|