Adrian Heath was signed from Aston Villa in 1990 and the forward stuck around for two years, scoring 4 goals over 75 appearances. The man nicknamed “Inchy” due to his diminutive height went on to play for Stoke, Burnley and Sheffield United in the twilight years of his career. The 1996-97 campaign saw Heath become that strangest of things: a player-manager. Considering that in his last two seasons of football he only played 9 games in total for Sheffield United and Burnley, it was a wise move transitioning into management, a career which he pursues to this day.
The start of this new path was patchy at best, incorporating a short lived spell at Sheffield United and a fair bit of time assisting Peter Reid during that period of time where he somehow managed to find continuous work in the English leagues.
2008 saw a change of surrounding as he travelled to America to coach the underwhelming Austin Aztex in the lower leagues of American football before getting a bigger break and moving to his current post at Orlando City.
Heath took charge in Orlando for inaugural USL Pro league season and has since won the League title, the Supporter’s Shield and two Coach of the Year awards (2011 & 2012.) The good times are in full swing for Heath at the moment, and they show no signs of stopping. Exciting and uncharted territory has recently hoved into view. Orlando’s impressive record combined with attendances of up to 20,000 (think City in Division 2 style crowds and be suitably impressed) has led to Orlando City paying the enrolment fees for the MLS and they will become the league’s 21st franchise in 2015. This, of course, means that they will be one of the first opponents for City’s upcoming American Outreach Programme, New York City Football Club.
The scale of this challenge for Heath cannot be underestimated. The nearest MLS team is the excellent DC United who are almost 850 miles away from Orlando. Others are far further away – imagine the planning required for an average away day! The David Beckham/Lebron James vanity wagon will be rolling into Miami in the near future to provide a super rich, highly publicised rival. The step up in quality to the MLS is effectively the same as going from the current League 2 to the Premier League with just a year to create a squad which can compete. Rumours of Kaka joining are abound and will no doubt overshadow these preparations.
I wish Adrian Heath all the best. The man has a stressful, probably infuriating but definitely thrilling few years ahead of him.
Written by Alex Timperley