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CINCINNATI — At first glance, Gary Walker thought he got off the plane in the wrong place.
For three weeks Walker said he felt like he was back in the United Kingdom as he dealt with the daily cold and rain March brings to the Cincinnati area.
Rest assured, however, Walker is here to stay with FC Cincinnati, signing on as the club’s first director of sports performance.
Walker joins FCC after 11 years with Manchester United. He admitted he is excited for this new adventure, one which will see him run the club’s strength, conditioning, and physical therapy program.
Walker developed MU’s Human Performance Laboratory in his time with the club and said his plan is to bring the same training to FCC.
Walker sat down with FloFC over the weekend. Here is what he had to say.
FloFC: Eleven years with Manchester United, did you envision a move to Cincinnati and Major League Soccer?
Gary Walker: Yeah, it is good to be here. I was approached and asked if I would be interested in applying for the position last year, in November. It was something that really interested me. It was exciting, the project with the club and the ambition that the club is showing in terms of growing in the MLS, and I felt it was a really good opportunity to move over to the States and experience something different. From a career perspective, I see this as a good move for me and my family.
How enticing was the job knowing FCC was a first-year MLS club?
I think it was something. It is an opportunity to grow and shape something in your philosophy in line with the club’s vision and philosophy. There aren't a lot of those opportunities in sport because things are already in place. This is something we can grow and shape here which is very exciting for us.
You devised a state of the art system with Manchester United, is FCC a blank canvas for you to do it again?
Pretty much yeah, like I said, you don’t get many of those opportunities in an elite spot. It is a real excitable opportunity. Speaking to the GM and the staff here, the club is really ambitious and it aligns with my ambition. I really felt like it was a great fit.
Have you ever lived in the United States?
No, I have never lived in the States. I got married in the States in 2012. I have never lived in the States, but I am easy with the language. I thought it was a good time for myself and my family to try to experience it.
How is Cincinnati?
It’s good. The weather is similar at the moment. We have had a bit of rain. It’s not been too warm so I am used to that, but I won’t be used to the summer.
Coming from MU, you bring a lot of credibility. How have the FCC players been?
The players have been very receptive. Just like the players I worked with before, they all want to get better. They all want to improve themselves individually and collectively.
I know the UK has rabid fan bases, what did you think of your first game at Nippert Stadium and the Bailey?
The stadium is a little bit smaller but the games before that I saw on the TV in terms of the crowds, how passionate they are, was exciting. I have seen the march into the stadium and that is really exciting. The fans seem like they love it here. That passion that the English fans show I think these fans in Cincinnati show as well.
I understand FCC goalie coach Jack Stern took you out to watch some EPL, did that included a trip to Skyline Chili?
No, not yet. I have heard about it. I had a lot of folks tell me about it, and I saw it when I drove past it but no, I haven’t had the chance to experience it yet.