By Christian Heimall, Staff Writer
When you walk into Hofstra Soccer Stadium for a men's soccer contest, you may be hard pressed to pick out the head coach of the Pride. Richard Nuttall is entering his twenty-second season as head coach of the Hofstra Pride men's soccer team, but Nuttall looks more like a retired fullback than a one-time English Football League player. That was not always the case though.
"I remember the first time we played Hofstra in Rich's first year," recalls 27 year Towson head coach Frank Olszewski. "After warm-ups I went looking for their coach to introduce myself and there wasn't anyone who looked like a coach there. All of sudden this guy walks up in full game uniform dripping in sweat, shakes my hand and says ‘I'm Richard Nuttall, the new soccer coach.' And let me tell you, he could run with those kids."
Throughout his seasons in charge of the Hofstra Pride Men's soccer team, Richard Nuttall's teams have been some of the fastest and most aggressive players in the Northeast.
"My high school coach and club coach were good friends with him," says sophomore midfielder Stephan Barea. "They didn't tell me exactly what kind of style of play he played but they told me that I would fit into it. I just assumed it had to do a lot with running."
Barea was right. A native South Yorkshire, England, Nuttall took over the program in 1988 and brought with him a style of soccer reminiscent of the sport he knew back home.
"You learn from your environment as a youth," said Nuttall. "Everyone knows the English style of play in the early 70's and 80's was somewhat direct, long aerial ball and battling for the ball in the final third." Over the course of his two plus decades Nuttall has seen his teams play with that same mindset but also with some minor adjustments.
"Over the years we like to think we've changed and made it much more of a passing game now and we like to think we're one of the better passing sides in the country," he said.
That passing style can clearly be seen on the pitch. As recently as last year, Hofstra soccer players have challenged records (Rob Youhill seeking the all-time assists record) and even more play internationally, mainly because of the aggressive, fast-paced, English style Nuttall has brought to Hempstead.
"We're intelligent, we're tough tackling, we're aggressive to closing the ball down," Nuttall said of his recent teams. "When we get the ball we like to possess and play a passing style."
Throughout his 21 full seasons, things have changed. Nuttall was originally a part-time head coach, the facilities were not great, the funding was not what it is now and the recruits reflected that. Today however, Hofstra Soccer Stadium is outfitted with turf, bleachers and a press box for members of the media. The pitch is graced with high talent players like Barea, a Long Island native, senior Johannes Grahn and recent graduates Richard Martinez and Gary Flood.
Along with the program, their leader has changed as well. "He's a lot more deliberate in his process and his method," said Hofstra women's soccer coach Simon Riddiough, who played for Nuttall from 1990-94. "He also changes his formations slightly each year but he's always great with his players and turns them into great young men."
"You need to change every single year but you hopefully start a style that stays somewhat the same," says Nuttall, who was named D-1 Coach of the Year in 1997. "When it comes down to it, you look at the squad you've actually gotten and you hope to fit your style to your players."
Despite the large amount of English influence for the Pride, there generally is not much of an international flare for this team. Hofstra has nine international players on the 2010 roster out of 28, roughly 35% of the team. But that individual number is on the high end for Nuttall and his coaching staff. They usually only have five to seven players a year from overseas on their roster.
"We try and recruit the best players locally. Wherever we lie at the end of that is then when we maybe go to the foreign side," Nuttall said. "They bring not just the soccer side but the culture and the academics, [a] different perspective. I think it's a great balance on the team to be honest."
That balance has brought success to Nuttall in the past. Under his command the Pride have won three CAA Titles, defeated numerous ranked programs, reached its first NCAA Tournament and gained its highest national ranking, finishing the 2005 campaign ranked No. 13 in the country. Meanwhile countless numbers of players have gone on to play professionally or nationally for their respective homelands. With respects to his native style of play and credit to his adaptation of the American game, Nuttall is entering yet another season at the helm of one of the top competitive teams in the Northeast, a team that he has groomed the Old English way.