Lee Squires has spent more than a decade on the soccer field as a player and coach, leading numerous teams across the Southeast to winning seasons.
Now the England native is bringing his love of the game to Greenville.
Last month, Greenville FC named Squires as its inaugural head coach. The team launched in November as an affiliate of the National Premier Soccer League, which has nearly 100 teams that compete in four regions and 14 conferences.
“I’m very excited in being named the first head coach and being involved with the club in its first season,” Squires said. “It’s an exciting project that has a lot of potential. Greenville is a thriving city that loves its soccer, so it’s great to be able to bring high-level soccer to the area. I have no doubt we can attract fans’ support and put out a great product on the field.”
Growing up in Sheffield, England, Squires discovered his love for soccer at an early age and later moved to the United States to play for Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, N.C., where he had a standout career as a striker.
After graduation, Squires was asked to return to Lees-McCrae and lead the school’s soccer team as head coach. Over the course of four seasons, Squires accomplished an impressive .578 winning percentage with an overall record of 40-29-7. Squires also previously served as the assistant coach for the North Carolina Olympic Development Program and was the head coach for the 2011 HSA Force ’98 in Premier UK Soccer.
In 2015, Squires was named head coach of the men’s soccer team at Lander University in Greenwood. The Bearcats have since accumulated a 41-11-6 overall record and made three appearances in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament championship and NCAA Division II national tournament.
Squires will continue to coach the men’s soccer team at Lander. The collegiate season runs from August to November. The Greenville FC season runs from May to July. The team’s home games will be played at Eugene Stone Soccer Stadium at Furman University.
The Greenville Journal recently sat down with Squires to discuss the upcoming season and his passion for soccer.
(The following transcription has been edited for clarity and brevity.)
Why do you love soccer?
Every game is different and exciting. You go into it and even if you’re a strong favorite, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win. It can literally go either way during that 90 minutes of play. And it’s not an individual sport. You rely on 10 other guys and the spirit you create as a team as your support system. It’s just a beautiful game.
How were you introduced to the game of soccer?
I was introduced to soccer at an early age through school and friends and started to take it seriously when I was 10 years old. When I was done with my schooling back home, I was trying to figure out how to continue playing at a higher level while getting an education, and the U.S. college system gave me that opportunity.
You received your first coaching job at the age of 23 with your alma mater, Lees-McCrae College. What was that transition from player to coach like?
I learned a lot quickly through mistakes and experience. It helped that I knew a lot of the coaches and players. And I feel like I had a good understanding of the game. I just had to learn communication and how to get the best out of players. I’m still working to tune my craft and will continue to do that going forward.
Why did you decide to join Greenville FC?
I think Greenville, first and foremost, is a fantastic city. My wife and I enjoy making the trip from Greenwood to be in town and take advantage of downtown. But this is a new team in a competitive league. It’s a great opportunity for me to continue coaching through the summer because the college season is so short. Sometimes I go into the season with my college guys feeling a little rusty. Now I get to coach 15 to 16 competitive games with good players. And it’s a new challenge to put together a team in such a short space of time and formulate those guys into some sort of cohesive unit. I love the challenge.
You had to build the Greenville FC team from scratch. What was that process like?
It was interesting, to say the least. We actually started recruiting just as everyone else was finishing, so we weren’t able to be as selective as we wanted to be. But we feel like we were able to secure a good team by utilizing the local guys and connections we have.
Your team lost its first game to the Georgia Revolution earlier this month. How are you feeling about how your team has performed so far?
We’re coming together day by day. I told the guys early on that performance doesn’t matter too much. That will come with time. But we’ve got to start putting some points on the board. We made some errors early on during our first game that put us behind. It was just a tough start for us. But we were able to get a goal before the end of the game, which made the final score a little more respectable. We’ve just got to start the game on a better note, so that we can work our way in and get a better result.
What has community support been like for the team so far?
To sell the amount of tickets we have before even kicking the ball at home has been unbelievable. The merchandise has been flying off the shelves, so people are really buying in. We’re the first summer team in town, and people want to support it. I’m excited to see what it’ll look like once we start playing more games and word starts to spread. It should be a pretty special experience for everyone.
What role does Greenville FC play in the growth of soccer here in the Southeast?
It’s huge in promoting the grass-roots soccer movement and getting kids out at camps in the summer. This club is in a privileged position where people want to support it, so we’re going to throw support behind people who support us.
For more information, visit gvlfc.com.
2018 Greenville FC Schedule:
May 16 vs. Savannah Clovers
May 19 at New Orleans Jesters
May 24 vs. Emerald Force FC
May 26 vs. Georgia Revolution
June 2 vs. Atlanta Silverbacks FC
June 9 vs. Chattanooga FC
June 16 at Atlanta Silverbacks FC
June 20 at Emerald Force FC
June 23 at Asheville City SC
June 27 vs. New Orleans Jesters
June 30 at Chattanooga FC
July 4 vs. Asheville City SC
July 7 at Inter Nashville FC
Note: All home games start at 7 p.m.