By Ryan Bailey
Charlotte FC’s Special Advisor helped build the Leicester City side that won the English Premier League—now he is part of the talent identification team building for success in the Queen City
CHARLOTTE—With around seven months to go until first kick, Charlotte’s FC inaugural roster and coaching staff is taking shape at an impressive rate. And few are more excited by the prospect of taking to the field in 2022 than Special Advisor Steve Walsh.
“It’s a very exciting proposition and a truly great project,” says the man with a reputation for being one of the most successful scouts in world soccer. “The team is coming together and now we can see the first training camp and the first game up on the horizon.”
Walsh, who famously helped put together the odds-defying Leicester City team that won the English Premier League in 2016, has been a part of Charlotte FC’s scouting team from the outset. In addition to helping to build the roster, he was part of the recruitment process that brought in head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez, and assistants Christian Lattanzio and Mikel Antia.
“It’s a formidable backroom team, which will help us to shape the rest of the team going forward,” says Walsh. “We’ve picked a coach that will improve the players. When you bring players in, you’re looking at raw potential—but you need a coach to bring that potential to its climax, so it’s very important to make the right choice.”
Walsh, whom Sir Alex Ferguson once called “the most influential person in the Premier League,” is enthused when recalling his recent conversations with Coach Ramirez:
“When I talk to Miguel about tactics, it’s clear he’s a real deep thinker. He’s somebody who will bring knowledge and experience, and will need some special players to do it.
“Miguel is a great believer in playing out from the back, with a high press and a possession-based approach. For us, it’s a case of making sure the players we bring to the club suit his rationale and style of play. The squad we’re putting together will be fit for the job.”
Walsh became well acquainted with assistant coach Lattanzio during his time with Manchester City.
“I understand he turned down the chance to join a Premier League team because he was excited by our project,” says Walsh of the Italian coach, who also lists New York City FC and the England National Team on his resume. “It says a lot that a coach came with us, rather than a Premier League club.”
CLTFC’s Special Advisor is also excited by the assets Coach Antia will bring to the team.
“He’s a tactician, and a great thinker of the game,” says Walsh of the coach who formed a part of Rafa Benitez’s backroom staff at Newcastle Utd. “The chemistry of the three coaches should really work well together.”
In addition to unearthing world-class talents including Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante, Walsh signed defender Christian Fuchs to Leicester City’s Premier League-winning side of 2015-16. He was instrumental in bringing the former Austrian National Team captain to Charlotte.
“Fuchs is a huge plus for us,” says Walsh. “He’ll give good leadership qualities in the dressing room, as well as vast experience on the field.”
Charlotte FC’s global scouting team has brought in players and coaches from three continents and six different nationalities. However, Walsh is keen to stress that domestic and local players will be crucial to the success of the team.
“The local connection which we already have with Brandt Bronico and Adam Armour, is definitely important,” says Walsh. ”There’s a big population and a massive talent base in North and South Carolina. It’s very important for us to turn local talent into MLS players.”
According to Walsh, fans can expect a “steady increase in player recruitment” in the coming months. “We’re really pleased with the progress of the players we have signed,” he adds, while praising the loan spells of Charlotte FC’s current roster members.
Walsh is well experienced in the process of building a winning team. And as Charlotte FC’s MLS debut approaches, his conviction that success is on the horizon grows.
“I think we’ll make an impact,” he says. “I know the ambitions of our owner and there’s an expectation to meet. As I’ve said before, we’re not just going in to make up the numbers.”