HARRISON, N.J. – Listen to Red Bulls’ sporting director Andy Roxburgh speak and it won’t take long to catch his habit for namedropping. But rather than annoy, it‘s part of his appeal and a big reason why New York signed the Scotsman in the first place.
After spending several years as UEFA’s technical director, the 69-year-old Roxburgh is as well-connected a man as you’ll find in soccer. He knows or has worked with some of the biggest names in the sport, ranging from Spanish heavyweights Barcelona to US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
In fact, it is his connections that opened the doors necessary to eventually join New York. Roxburgh has known Red Bulls’ head of global soccer Gérard Houllier for 25 years, and it was Houllier and Red Bull co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz who approached Roxburgh about the job before others in his network pushed him to accept the challenge.
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"They kept using the word potential and you can see that the minute you come here to this stadium,” Roxburgh told reporters at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday. “Everything about it you feel has enormous potential. That was the initial thing.
“Two guys that also encouraged me, one was Sir Alex Ferguson of Man United. ... Carlos Perreira was the other one, who of course was coach here in New York in the previous organization."
Roxburgh eventually accepted the sporting director position with the Red Bulls, officially signing with the club on Nov. 9. Roxburgh has already grabbed headlines and won some fans by saying the club needs more of an American identity and style. But he knows that actions speak louder than words and he’s determined to prove he is not just using smoke and mirrors to gain public affection.
“It’s one thing to talk of bulls, it’s another thing to be in the bull ring,” said Roxburgh, citing a Spanish proverb that he claims is one of his favorite quotes. “It’s one thing to talk of Red Bulls, it’s another thing to be in this soccer bull ring, so to speak, and therefore it’s what you deliver that matters.
“Right now, all I can say is there is a real desire from the owner, Gerard, myself, the staff here, to try and make this franchise one of the best in the MLS.”
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While Roxburgh is extremely experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to the sport, some fans and media have remained skeptical because he has never managed a club team. Roxburgh acknowledged that fact, but he is confident his previous experiences will help him in his transition to the Red Bulls and MLS.
“I was the manager of the Scottish national team, and that is very much being the chef in the kitchen,” he said. “You’re not a food critic there. You take the criticism there. But over the recent years, I’ve worked with the top club guys on a regular basis and I’ve been at the clubs, at the training, etc.
“Yeah, I’ve not been responsible [for a club], but you can’t say I haven’t been in it and close to it and attached to it in many ways.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.