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Former Rapids striker John Spencer

September 2, 2009 | 8:56 am No comments
By George Tanner

(photos by Jonathan Ingraham/ColoradoSoccerNow.com)

John Spencer was made the fourth member of Colorado Rapids’ Gallery of Honor on Sunday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The 38-year-old assistant coach for the Houston Dynamo was in town for a fixture between the two teams, and the Rapids honored him at halftime. He took some time to talk to ColoradoSoccerNow.com during halftime of an exhibition between the University of Denver and Stanford on Saturday at the practice pitch at Dick’s. While Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear, also a former Rapids player, was attending to team business, Spencer and some of the Dynamo assistants were watching the friendly. Spencer sat in the grass on the east sideline with Rapids technical director Paul Bravo.

Are you actually out here scouting DU and Stanford?
We actually just arrived about 25 minutes before kickoff, and we knew the game was on. So we just thought we’d come along. … It’s always good to keep your eye in and see the players. We’ve actually got a couple of young kids from Houston out here playing from Denver. It’s always good to keep your eye on them.

Do you see anyone you like?
I can’t tell you. I don’t want Bravo stealing them for the Rapids.

It looks like you and he are doing some catching up. …
Me and Paul were roommates when we played together here in Colorado, so there’s a long history between him and myself. We played together on the Rapids team up front a few times. I’ve known him for a long time, so it was nice to catch up with an old friend.

Do you maintain a strong connection with the Rapids?
I’ve got a lot of friends who still live in this area. Paul works in Colorado. Dave Kramer is the goalie coach that I played with. I look at this time, the time I spent here in Colorado as a player, as on par with Chelsea when I played there for the five, six years that I was there, as enjoyment. I really, really enjoyed my football here. I didn’t have a good spell at Motherwell in Scotland before I came to Colorado, but after being here two or three weeks, the fans were so … It was a great atmosphere in the old Mile High to play. I got my love and my passion for the game back, and the rest is history. I love this place, and I always say that when I’m going to retire this will be the place I retire for the rest of my days.

How big is this honor for you?
Speaking to family and friends, it’s probably the nicest thing that anybody’s done for my in my whole career. I feel very, very honored to be up on the wall with some good players. It’s an individual award, but when you get individual awards you only get them because the people around you helped you achieved the, teammates, family, friends and the fans. The biggest thank-you is always going to the fans for me because, as I said, they gave me that love and that passion back. I’m very, very honored to receive it. It will be nice to come back and see my name up on that wall.

What is your commitment to Major League Soccer?
As a player I was here, and I worked hard. I didn’t play well every week. But I think people who had seen me will walk away and say, “At least he tried hard.” Coming back here, as a coach, I’ve always been loyal to the Houston Dynamo; they’ve showed me great loyalty, as well. And Dominic has been fantastic, great coach to work under. So they’ve been great to me. I think my commitment to Major League Soccer is undeniable. Am I looking to go anywhere else, to coach in another country? Not at the moment, not for the foreseeable future. I’m very, very happy where I am.

How far do you want to go in this league?
I think it’s like anything: If you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it properly. You want to be the best. I’m no different from anybody else, any other assistant or head coach in the league. You want to be the best coach in American soccer. But it takes time. You’ve got to get the opportunity, and when the right opportunity comes, no doubt, I’ll have a look at it. And if it’s the right move for myself and my family, I’ll go for it.

What types of things have you learned as a coach in Houston?
I think the first thing that was so apparent to me when I walked through the door was, after a week of practice, the intensity level on the practice field. It never ever wavers or changes. It never changes from the Monday to the game on the Saturday. We practice at the same level, the same intensity that we play with. And I think it shows in the results, the consistent results. Touch wood, you look back at my three and a half years at Houston, and I don’t think we’ve ever been really involved in one blowout game where we’ve been beat four or five. We’ve been beat a couple times 2-nil or 3-1, but we’ve always been in the game. Players never let their heads get down because they’re so honest. And that obviously comes from the foundations that Frank Yallop installed down to Dominic. And it continues. It’s a continuation.

And I would expect that from a team that you helped coach.
Yeah, for sure, I think that’s why myself and Dominic got on so well. We have the same philosophies, same mentality to working hard. Maybe it’s because we came from a similar type upbringing. His father was Scottish. Dominic was born in Glasgow and moved to California when he was 2. So I don’t imagine his household would be any different an upbringing from what I grew up in in Glasglow, Scotland. So I think we have the same philosophies. And he has the championship rings as a head coach, and I wouldn’t mind getting a couple of them myself.

Are you ready to be a head coach?
I think time will tell. I can stand here and stay, “Yeah, I’m the best assistant coach in the world.” It’s up to someone who pays the checks and pays the wages and decides this guy may be good enough to run my franchise. I’m not in a massive rush. We’re just over halfway through this season, and I really feel we can go on and win another championship in Houston. I think it would be really unfair to look at other avenues until the end of the season.

Do you have ambitions beyond MLS?
Not at the moment, no. I’m very happy here in the country. I broke my neck to try and get back. Mark Chung put in a recommendation to Dominic, former Rapid, to get me this assistant’s job, and I took it. I wouldn’t have wanted to come back so bad just to jump over the pond and do something else. I don’t feel that it’s so much better over there, to coach there. You know, I’ve got a lot of respect for the league. I think the players here are fantastic. There are a lot of fantastic young American players coming through in the game. And I’m happy to be a part of this path of Major League Soccer for a long time to come.

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