By Scott Adamson
When it comes to soccer, Greenville FC head coach Lee Squires was a quick study right from the start.
A native of Sheffield, England, Squires decided to come stateside to play the game collegiately. By the time he was done at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, he was the leading scorer (67 goals) in school history.
He was also a three-time All-American and twice named Conference Carolinas Player of the Year.
After competing in the Premier Development League, he returned to LMC as a 23-year-old coach, and in four seasons guided the Bobcats to a 40-29-7 record.
But it was after he moved on to Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina, when he hit his stride as a mentor.
Just three seasons into his career there, Squires has compiled a 41-11-6 worksheet. Aside from the impressive record, his resume includes three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, two Peach Belt Conference championships and he has been named the PBC Coach of the Year for two seasons in a row.
After the Bearcats’ 2017 campaign, which also included a title in the PBC tourney, Squires could’ve spent this summer taking a break.
Instead, he’s breaking in new players comprising a new team, as Greenville FC preps for its inaugural season in the National Premier Soccer League.
The expansion club opens at the Georgia (Hampton) Revolution on Friday, May 4, and plays its first home match at Stone Stadium on May 12 when Inter Nashville FC comes in for a 7 p.m. contest.
So how challenging is it to go from coaching an established college team to leading one that represents the Fourth Division of United States soccer?
“The biggest difference coaching college and NPSL, especially a team starting from scratch, is blending the team together in such a short space of time,” Squires said. “In college, you often get a number of returners but since this is our first year with GVLFC, everyone is new. We start training May 1st, with the first game May 4th, so not much time for us to come together. Also, we have looked to recruit the best of the college players and some high level older age players, to the standard across the board is expected to be higher.”
Squires got the first look at Greenville FC hopefuls when they played Anderson University last month in a trialist exhibition.
“I was very impressed with the number and quality of trialists,” Squires said. “The tryout sold out quickly, showing the buzz for the team in the city. We narrowed it down from 70 to 10, to join some players currently signed with us, to compete against Anderson University the next day and it was a very close game in which we led for most of it. There’s a small handful from those 10 that have been offered a spot on the team.”
Once the team is put together, Squires will have little time to find out its personality considering the small window between training camp and opening day.
“For me, the players dictate the formation,” Squires explains. “We have to assess quickly what we have and how best to fit the pieces together. But hopefully my preferred style of play will be evident. I like technical players who can play with intensity and quality. I like my teams to play attacking football and be entertaining to watch. But again, all will be dictated by the players we have.
“There’s many ways to win a game and we have to find the way the works for us, as quickly as possible.”
As Squires mentioned, the club has already created positive buzz around town and when they start playing in front of fans they’ll already have a supporters group in the form of the Mill Town Operatives.
“It is vital to have a strong supporters group and the Mill Town Operatives have been fantastic so far,” Squires said. “They are the heart and soul of the club and what provides the club with its identity. They can and will play a huge role, not only at games, but in helping the club grow and spreading the word.”
The goal for the inaugural season, of course, is to put a competitive squad on the pitch and make some noise in the NPSL Southeast Conference. Greenville FC’s opponents include Asheville City FC, Atlanta Silverbacks FC, Chattanooga FC, Emerald Force (Knoxville) FC, and the New Orleans Jesters, as well as Georgia and Nashville.
Beyond that, Squires hopes to see the club grow into the best it can be while maintaining its community soccer identity.
“Promotion/relegation is a hot topic here in the U.S.” Squires said. “It seems to work in the rest of the world, so why not here?! I think it would be great to see a city like Greenville have a pro team and earn promotion. It’s just whether it is sustainable long term.”
Squires then laughed.
“I’m not paid to make those decisions!”
For more information about the club, including ticket information, visit www.gvlfc.com.