HARTFORD, January 13, 2021 – The new soccer coach for Hartford Athletic is looking forward to the challenge of building on the momentum and success from last year’s Athletic squad that won Group F and earned a USL Championship playoff berth in its second season.
“That pressure is a privilege, an absolute privilege,” said England’s Harry Watling, 31, who will be a head coach for the first time. “The pressure of trying to beat last season’s level (of success) is a challenge I really want to take.”
Hartford introduced Watling on Wednesday to media in the New England area. Watling was working in the Academy system for Premier League’s West Ham United in England. He comes to Hartford after spending four years in the Academy system at Millwall FC and spent five years at Chelsea FC.
“It’s really about developing (the players) and getting them prepared,” Watling said. “Coming over (to the United States) and taking this job shows my ambition. It would have been easy for me to stay in the Academy system for another four or five years but I have this burning desire to take over a team and compete at this level. For me, that is very important.”
Major League Soccer is consider the top level or Division I in the United States. USL Championship is consider a Division II caliber league.
Watling succeeds Radhi Jaïdi and becomes the third head coach in Hartford Athletic history.
Jaïdi, on loan from the Premier League’s Southampton FC, led Hartford to an 11-4-2 record in a pandemic shortened 2020 season. Hartford earned 35 points, second most in the Eastern Conference, and finished at the top of Group F. St. Louis handed Hartford a 1-0 loss in the first round of the playoffs.
“Harry emerged from a very deep and impressive group of candidates and is among the most highly regarded young coaches in England,” Hartford Athletic chairman Bruce Mandell said. “He has learned from some of the best soccer minds in the world and has shown a strong ability to develop and maximize talent.”
Michael Beale, the head coach of Scottish Premiership side Rangers FC, said, “I firmly believe that Harry is one of the best youth developers in the country and demonstrates this during his day-to-day work with a fantastic energy and enthusiasm for the game on and off the pitch.”
Hartford Athletic has already signed nine players for the 2021 season, six of whom return from the 2020 roster.
“I just want to add value,” Watling said. “I am not trying to change the world. I want to find out the things that work well, add value and improve on things that didn’t go well.”