Soccer is one of the fastest growing sports in America and Lance Noble is excited to be a part of that growth right here in Beaumont! On April 7, 2014 PASL league owned franchise, Texas Strikers announced Noble as the General Manager for the 2014-2015 season. I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Lance to talk about his vision for the team's future in Beaumont, TX.
Noble has a wealth of experience in soccer that began as a youth player. After his playing career ended due to injury, Noble continued making his mark in the world of soccer while coaching at University of Dallas, San Antonio Pumas, Laredo Heat, and General Manager and Head Coach with PASL Alamo SC San Antonio He holds a BBA in Management, 18 graduate school hours in Educational Administration, and a Master's Degree is Sports Science. He also brings with him a USSF "A" License, NSCAA "Premier Diploma", USYSA "National Youth Diploma", A KNVB (Dutch) Coaching Badge, and an Irish International Diploma. ( https://www.facebook.com/TexasStrikers/posts/862973530395146).
Noble's footballing interests are vast, literally stretching across the globe. When asked who his favorite teams are, “Texas Strikers!”, he chuckled, “and F.C. Dallas for sure. Internationally, I'm a Manchester United Fan. My ex-wife's father was from Munich and was a keeper in his day, so I also follow Bayern Munich.”
There has been much upheaval in the English Premiere League this season regarding the hiring and firing of managers. As a new manager to the Texas Strikers and a Manchester United fan, I wondered if the recent dismissal of Manchester United's manager David Moyes might elicit some interesting ideas from Noble about how it was handled. “Honestly, I'm surprised it took them as long as it did. Glazer gave him every opportunity. Do I think they could have handled it better? Yes, but Moyes simply wasn't getting the job done,” he responded. I also prompted him for his prediction as to whom Manchester United's next manager might be. “I think [Louis] Van Gaal, but there are so many good choices out there.”
Rachel St. Photography (RSTP): Who is your favorite famous footballer/soccer player?
Lance Noble (LN): I'm a big Messi fan, mostly I think, because I was a smaller player myself.
RSTP: It's a big year for football because it's World Cup year – who is your favorite to win the title?
LN: I think Brazil because they've got the home-crowd behind them, but you definitely can't write Spain off. I'd love to see the US do well, but they will have to play extremely well to get out of the Group of Death bracket. I think a tie and a win for the US could see them move forward. Germany, of course, is also very strong.
Noble is a soccer enthusiast. When asked which Walking Dead character he most closely identified with, I quickly discovered that Noble had never seen the series. In fact, he's such an avid soccer fan that his “TV is glued to fox sports". He continues with a sheepish grin, "I also collect sports movies. For the Love of the Game' with Kevin Costner is probably my favorite. He was brilliant in that movie...oh and obviously, 'Victory' is a favorite, too.”
Bringing his passion to the pitch, Noble seems to have a more attacking philosophy when selecting players for the new season. This is further underlined when I asked him who is current favorite midfield players are. “There are so many; Robben, Ribery, Bale, Ronaldo. The best tandem in the world right now is Ribery and Robben – they are so well suited as team players. But you know, the way Bayern Munich play Phillipp Lahm, even as a defender, he gets forward so much. If I had to pick one though, Ribery has so many qualities,” he said enthusiastically.
RSTP: What is your favorite soccer position?
LN: Hmm, I'd have say outside midfield on the flanks [winger]. I loved playing under 2 strikers. Ironically, though, I played emergency goal keeper on a lot of the teams for which I played.
The Texas Strikers have struggled for the past two years and are currently ranked lowest in wins and goals for, with highest goals conceded. Noble has a big job ahead of him to produce a quality, winning team. In Noble's two year tenure as Head Coach and GM with the PASL Alamo SC San Antonio, they never lost a PASL home game. Will this be the change that the Strikers have been crying out for?
RSTP: What are your plans for the team?
LN: My role here is administrative. Strikers have a great coach in Topper. He and I have known each other for quite a while and I don't think he's gotten a fair shot. My job is to get better players in here. The statistics speak for themselves. From the administrative standpoint, there is a lot that has to be done off the field if we're going to be successful as a club.
RSTP: What needs to happen for the club to be successful this season?
LN: There's a lot that needs to be done off the field and from a front office management standpoint that, quite simply, have not been done in the past and you know, when you look at attendance, wins, goals for, goals against... this franchise is at the bottom of the league in just about every category. We've got to find a way to get into the middle of the pack, at least, very quickly otherwise fans aren't going to come out. I think the main thing is, we need to become a presence in the community from an administrative standpoint and a management standpoint. This level is professional sports and you need players who are going to get the job done. I have a few ideas on how to work under the league's luxury tax per game and be able to bring in some very, very good players so that Topper can do his thing. The indoor soccer game is much different than the outdoor game. My role right now is to give him [Topper] the tools to go do what he needs to do and then leave him alone. We had a very good extended lunch meeting last week and we're both going to need to help each other. If he wants my advice or opinion on something dealing with the field, I'll be glad to give it to him. If I need his advice or his opinion on something that's happening off the field, then I'm going to ask him for it. We both seem to be on the same page there, about helping each other. This season is about figuring out whether or not we can make this work here in Beaumont. I want it to; that's my goal. I want to turn over every stone so that we can figure out of this franchise can survive here. And I'm very confident that it can, but we've got to put a better product out on the field, we've got to put out a better product off the field; our reputation being a main part of that. If we can do those things, then we give the fans and the city a much better product, then all of a sudden our attendance will begin to increase and we can say, “OK, this is going to work here.”
RSTP: When can we expect to see tryouts? What is that going to look like? As far as our reputation in the community, what are the steps that are being taken to improve that?
LN: Two very good questions. As far as tryouts: it's an ongoing process. Yes, we will have an open tryout and look to bring players in, but we also need to bring guys in individually and have them train with the team here to see personality wise, playing wise, “do they fit in?”. It's going to be an ongoing process; it's not going to just be a one time thing and then “OK here's the team.” And we need to start this yesterday. As far as what we need to do within the community, I think, one of the things... right now, this is a league owned franchise. I actually work for the commissioner, Kevin Milliken. I've known Kevin for 6 or 7 years from when I coached San Antonio. He's done an absolutely brilliant job running this league; adding the Baltimore Blast, Kansas City, well now they're the Missouri Comets, and getting this league up to where it is, is a full credit to him, because now it's a legitimate league with a lot of teams with a rich indoor history. I've got to get in here and get to work to make sure that it's community backed. You do that by rebuilding, an iffy, for lack of a better word, reputation right now, because a lot of things haven't been handed that well in the past and that's why Kevin took the steps to make the Strikers a league owned franchise.
RSTP: Are there any specifics to how that is going to be accomplished?
LN: Not yet. Right now, I'm in a fact-finding mode. Of course, I don't even start until May 1. You know, I came down here in April and I have been going full steam ahead because that's my nature; I'm here, let's get it done, let's start working. There are so many things that we need to look at. Kevin and I are supposed to be putting a few days together for a conference call and he's going to tell me some specific things he wants me to do and I'll go out and do those and we'll go from there
RSTP: Last season the Strikers were involved throughout the community in a lot of ways. They partnered with Christus St. Elizabeth and local schools for Healthy Kickers, teaching the kids about good exercise and eating habits. They also participated in the H.E.B. Feast of Giving at Christmas and donated time to Southeast Texas Museum of Art's Tree lighting festival. Will there be more things like that this year? How can businesses and organizations partner with the Strikers this season?
LN: It is absolutely crucial that we continue this. It is essential that we continue to be as involved as possible in the community. As we get closer to beginning the season, there will be options for involvement on our website and that's a good way to get involved.
RSTP: Are there sponsorship opportunities?
LN: Absolutely! Again, as we get closer to the beginning of the season, more information will become available.
RSTP: How can businesses or organizations get involved to participate in pre-game or half-time shows?
LN: This is another area that we really look forward to partnering in the community. Local dance schools, school music clubs, soccer clubs – all of them are welcome to join us for game days.
RSTP: Will this be a mutual situation or what should organizations and businesses expect when participating?
LN: Yeah, this will be a mutual thing – kiddos get in free for participating in the half time thing. I want our players to be very involved with the local youth community soccer wise. I think that is imperative for our success. We've GOT to get our players involved, whether it's coaching or just out participating in the community.
RSTP: I know last year, for example, many of the players also coached at Gusher United, which has just undergone an umbrella change and are coming under the umbrella of Liverpool FC America. Will there still be that involvement as far as coaching out there with Liverpool FCA South?
LN: I hope that as many players as we have can be involved with coaching. I don't know exact numbers but I would say that probably 75% of our fan base comes from youth clubs and the rest from the community.
RSTP: Will there be any relationship between LFCA and the Strikers?
LN: Yeah, you know it makes sense for us to have some sort of partnership with them, an agreement if you will, where we're helping them, they're helping us. We're trying to do what we can to get our players involved with them and hopefully they'll look to be involved with us in a development standpoint, it can be a win-win situation.
RSTP: Are there any plans for the Strikers to encourage further youth development here in SETX? There's obviously LFCA that we were just talking about, but there are other recreational leagues and smaller leagues in the area. Are you guys planning to – what are the plans for reaching out to those groups as well, so that it's not just a Beaumont thing?
LN: We have plans to reach out to them, but we will definitely be providing something that will get them to us. We want to give something to them and an event that produces something that is good for the community - it's a much stronger market base and a stronger relationship with those groups and they'll be more willing to come and see is. Especially if they know the players, wherever they're from, they will more willing to be involved.
RSTP: This question may just be for me, but because you and Topper both have been involved with soccer for so long here in America and we do have international players, are there any plans to reach out to former footballers, soccer players, from the MLS or the English Premiere League, or Mexican leagues and invite them to come out as a celebrity stunt?
LN: There is one former MLS player that I've spoken to about playing. You can play indoor a lot longer than you can play outdoor. There are some exciting things that can happen, yeah to bring in some of the people that are former MISL, former professional indoor guys, and coaches: Gordon Jago is one of my mentors up in Dallas – he coached the sidekicks forever. Kenny Cooper Sr. is one of my mentors up in Dallas and he coached the Baltimore blast forever. Tatu is my friend, and he's been the coach and general manager for the sidekicks – he's been very open and honest about the sidekicks, but I’d like to pull a few surprises and I think it's going to be fun. Players like that bring players into the stands. It will be a lot of fun!
RSTP: Anything else you'd like to add?
LN: I'm excited to be here. I'm looking forward to the upcoming season. I do have goals: I want attendance to average 1,000 and I want the team to average 500 (win half of their games). That doesn't just fall on the coach, but it falls mainly on the players, and it also falls on the fans. If we have full stands, it's like having another player out on the field. Those are the goals we've set for the season. My goal is not to move this franchise to another city. My goal is to find every possible way to get this franchise to stay in Beaumont; that's what the league wants and that's what I want. The way that we're planning to target demographics for marketing, we're just exploring so many different options right now – it's exciting and I’m really looking forward to it.