On Monday, December 20, Conor Casey was announced as the Charleston Battery‘s sixth manager in the club’s illustrious history. With a wealth of experience at home and abroad as a player, both the Battery and Casey will embark on a journey of new beginnings. To kick off the new era, he fielded questions from us on several topics. From his plans for the team, to what he’s learned from his career and how that will impact him in Charleston, to the fans and the key role that they will play in his success.
BYP: First of all, Happy Holidays… Thank you for being the fans’ Christmas Present!
CC: Happy Holidays to you!
BYP: You’ve got big shoes to fill. [But] from a competitive standpoint, is that something you look forward to? Taking over the team from someone who was around [for so long] in the organization?
CC: Yeah, it’s exciting and it’s unique to have someone who’s been so embedded in the club and given so much to one place for so long, and I have so much respect for what [Mike Anhaeuser] has done with the club over that time. And now, it’s a new day. It’s very exciting. I think clubs need a change every once in a while to reinvigorate everyone, and I couldn’t be more excited to be the one to come in and lead the club, lead the culture, the team, the fans, and just get new energy in the building.
Knowing how important [Anhaeuser] was to the fans, how important is it to come in and get them on your side?
CC: It’s enormous. The fans are such an integral part of what we do as coaches and as Football players, right? That sound and the feeling you get to be able to give joy to them. So I hope that they embrace me with open arms. I certainly know that I’ll have to prove myself to them and to the players, but I hope there’ll be a lot of positivity around myself and around this team and the direction we’re going in. Having a raucous, full stadium with fans that care is such a huge difference-maker, not just for wins, but just for the feeling, for the energy for what we want to do on a daily basis. I’m hoping that we’re able to keep those fans that have always been supporters and be able to pile on some new ones.
You have your own place in the bedrock of American Soccer… You’ve had a very successful playing career, how do you view the history of the Battery as part of American Soccer?
CC: [The Battery are] the longest-standing professional club, so there’s so much history there. I’ve played [At Blackbaud] a few times in the preseason, and I think, in general when I think of the league I think of the Battery. That’s the club that stands out for me and always has. To now get the opportunity to lead this club and move this club forward, it’s a very exciting time. Not just for the city and for the club, but for the league. Soccer is growing at an incredible pace in this country and the MLS is becoming a bigger and bigger league with bigger players and that’s wonderful, and it means more and more opportunities for young players. It also means that not all of those young players will be able to play in the MLS, and they need places to play, [to learn and develop] and I think the USL is set up perfectly for that.
BYP: Given the past two or three years, do you see the groundwork there for what you want to accomplish?
CC: From a player standpoint, there are some good players in the building, and we’re assessing that now. And there’s a good group there, a good core group to build with. But I think every manager sees the game differently. I certainly see the game as fast-paced and forward-thinking, aggressive… I learned from Jurgen Klopp and I learned from Ralf Ragnick… I believe that that’s the way of the game. Our recruiting will hopefully reflect that, and then it’s mine and my staff’s job to put this team in a position where they are that team and that they have those physical attributes. We’re playing fast, we’re playing forward… I’m not someone who wants to build the ball up and have 50 passes. I want to score goals as quickly as we can and I want it to be exciting. That will be on us to build. But to answer your question, with any new coach coming in, they’re going to have their own ideas and I’m no different and I want to be that fast, attacking team.
BYP: You spoke about it, but as you’ve mentioned two of the great coaches in World Football, as a player, how do you think they’ve impacted your managerial style?
CC: Differently, I think one side is the tactical side and one part is the leadership side. Jurgen Klopp is a very animated, excited, personality and that’s not necessarily my personality. Ralf Ragnick is a more professor type, and all these managers have these different pieces to them. So I’ve built my style around this fast-paced game that they believe in and my leadership style is probably gonna be a little bit more reserved. I want the players in the locker room to be the leaders and I want their personalities to come through and them to drive the team forward. If my staff do well we can be there to give them the information and the support but it should be their team.
What are your goals for your first year? And what are your goals for your first 18 months to three to five years?
It’s sometimes difficult to set long-term goals, because I’m quite process-orientated in terms of what we have to do right now, today, and I want my players to have the same mindset. We’re gonna be, as I said, process-orientated. We’re gonna focus on improving and getting better, and that’s gonna be the whole focus. We want results, we want to get in the playoffs, we want to win championships, but we want to do the daily things to put our players in that position to gain those results. I want to make sure the team is the most respected team in the league and we will work hard every day to make sure that happens.
Having said that, do you have a message for the fans?
COME OUT! Support the team, come to the stadium, take a look for yourself. bring the energy, match the energy. Clubs that are successful long-term have a good relationship between the fans and the players on the pitch, and we want to excite the fans that have already been there for so many years, but we also want to bring in a whole new generation of fans too. I know how important it is as a player to play in front of a packed stadium full of fans to feel that support and to feel that 12th man, and if we can get that then this club can go sky-high.
BYP would again like to thank Coach Casey for his time amid both the holidays and his unveiling. We are, as ever, optimistic for the future.