Former Huddersfield Town favourite Jon Stead has started his coaching career in the United States – but is currently having to isolate having contracted Covid-19.
The 6ft 3in striker had two spells at Town as a player, playing for the Terriers between 2002-04 and 2013-15 making over 100 appearances for his boyhood club.
Stead retired last season after a 700-game playing career which saw him hang up his boots at League Two side Harrogate Town.
He previously told Huddersfield Hub of his ambitions to become a coach and he is now a month into his new role as assistant coach at Hartford Athletic in the state of Connecticut.
Stead is assistant to Hartford head coach Harry Watling, 31, who was previously in charge of the academies at Chelsea, West Ham and Millwall.
Stead, who has been double-jabbed, tested positive for Covid as did Watling and both are isolating. Stead is said to be suffering “flu-like symptoms.”
In a post on LinkedIn, Stead said: “So far it’s been everything and more I could have wished for. The league, club, staff and players have presented me with daily challenges and opportunities to learn and improve.”
Hartford is the capital city of the state of Connecticut and Hartford Athletic are the only professional football, sorry, ‘soccer’ side in the state.
The club was formed in 2018 and plays in the United States League Championship, the second tier of American soccer. The division is below the top league the MLS.
Athletic played their inaugural season in 2019 and in 2020 despite the pandemic they did manage to play a shortened season and qualify for the play-offs for the first time in their brief history.
This year they have won six, drawn three and lost two fixtures. Athletic sit in 4th place in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division. The Championship is split into two divisions Eastern and Western with Athletic competing in the Eastern half.
The club has at least two games in hand on all three teams ahead of them.
Watling was born in London and earned his UEFA B licence at the age of 18 and his UEFA A licence at just 26, which at the time made him one of the youngest coaches in England to have such a coaching licence.
He is married to professional footballer and Northern Ireland national team player Ciara Watling, 28, who currently plays for Charlton Athletic in the FA Women’s Championship.
Having recently hooked up with Watling in the States, Stead said he’d already learned a great deal.
“To have the opportunity to learn from Harry Watling on and off the training pitch has been superb and the amount of detail and planning put into every aspect of the players/clubs and development has been inspiring,” he said.
Soccer in America is on the rise and the standard of play has improved dramatically over the last two decades. Various top English footballers have moved to the States to play there in recent years including Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. Sir David Beckham owns MLS club Inter Miami CF.
Stead has been encouraged by the standard of football being played in the States – but the travelling distances involved dwarf what is generally seen in English football.
Stead added: “The league is very competitive with lots of travelling. We play Tampa Bay Rowdies, New Mexico United and Miami FC to name a few. They are all long flights away.”
To put it into perspective Plymouth Argyle v Carlisle United is the longest distance football fixture in England with a drive time of eight hours. It will take that long for Stead to go from Hartford to New Mexico – by plane.
Many people wished Stead well on his American adventure including former Huddersfield Town performance coach Steve Black, who was part of Lee Clark’s management team until 2010.
Black – known affectionately as Blackie – said: “Good luck with your coaching career, Jon. Enjoy your time Stateside and glean as much as you can from the experience. Keep building that toolbox.
“Take care …. And if you apply the wonderful and focused effort I witnessed first-hand at Old Trafford one night many moons ago when you were a player, the coaching career will embrace you with open arms. God bless. Blackie.”
Stead is staying in the US until the season ends in November and is missing his family who have remained back in Yorkshire.
“I’m missing my family and loved ones but they support me 100%,” he said. “I will return with experience and knowledge that will certainly propel my coaching career further.
“I am looking forward to the rest of the season and continuing to grow as a coach and an individual. I will definitely be back in November, then who knows really where I’ll go?”
- With thanks to Hartford Athletic