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Rowdies hope Stuart Campbell leads to a turnaround

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There is a quiet confidence to Stuart Campbell, a certainty that this job, and this situation, is not too much for him.

Good thing. The Tampa Bay Rowdies could use a bit of stability right about now.

Campell, 37, sits in a dugout overlooking the field at Al Lang Field. It is his field now, and his team, and his season to save. He inherited a team in a nosedive, a team that seemingly had the joy of the game sucked from them. There are high expectations, and there has been low production, and he is the man who has to bridge the two.

So, Stuart, are you the right man for the job?

“Yes,” he said simply. “I have confidence in my ability as a coach. I believe in myself. I believe in the group.”

And so here he is, two weeks into his new job, a man who has to heal and to guide and to plan and to motivate. He has spent a lifetime preparing for this job, if you want to know the truth, a kid who signed his first contract at age 12 with Leicester City, a guy who made his debut at age 18, a guy who has been thinking about coaching his own team since his late 20s. That was when coach Paul Trollope, the assistant coach for the Wales national team, sat him down and talked to him about becoming a coach. He studied for his coaching qualifications, and he became hooked.

He has done this before, you know. Campbell was named interim coach with the Bristol Rovers with 12 games to go, going 4-5-3. For a brief time, he ran things there, too, as one of the youngest head coaches in Europe.

Did it prepare him well enough for this? We’ll see. Team owner Bill Edwards isn’t shy about talking about expectations, about championships and one-year plans. That doesn’t bother Campbell, who admits he’s kind of a bad loser himself.

“No, it doesn’t bother me at all,” Campbell says of the expectations. “You can see we have a big squad. We probably have the biggest roster in the league. He’s obviously signed a lot of players. When you’re able to sign as many players as we have, it brings an expectation. You have to deal with that.

“We’re good. We’ve been in a very bad run, but I keep reminding the guys we’re (tied for) fourth in the standings. I see it as half full rather than half empty. I firmly believe our destiny is in our own hands. When you win two or three in a row, you never think you’re going to lose again. When you lose two or three in a row, you never think you’re going to win again”

So what kind of coach has Tampa Bay added? Start with this: He believes in effort.

“The main thing I want is 100 percent effort,” Campbell said. “I want to be able to count on that whether we play good, bad or indifferent. When we come off that field, I want to know they’ve given me everything. Not just in the games, but in training. I’m a big believer that you play how you train. If you don’t train properly, you pick up bad habits.

“I like to plan. I’m pretty meticulous. My job is to prepare the team the best I can. To give them all the tools they require to go out there. To get the players to believe. To let them know that I trust them.”

Trust. It’s harder than you think in professional sports. But Campbell gives the Rowdies a fresh chance. Pretty much, that’s all players can ask.

Saturday night, the Rowdies play the New York Cosmos, who are far and away the league’s best team in the combined standings with 39 points. The Rowdies, meanwhile, are last in the league in the fall season at 2-6-2.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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