Word comes from Cary that the RailHawks have released veteran defender Paul Ritchie. It appears to be a voluntary and amicable move: Ritchie came to Cary having been out of competitive soccer for a year, and then had difficulty bouncing back from a knee injury. From the press release:
"I wish things had worked out differently," Ritchie said. "It took me a while to get fit. I got myself fit, and then I got another knock on my knee. And with the games and it being such a short season, the time scale for me to get fully fit is not going to be feasible for the club to move forward. My family's back home and my kids are back home, and I've missed them a lot. I've made a lot of good friends here. It's a fantastic set-up, and I think there's something special happening here."
In his prime, Ritchie played with the celebrated Scottish side Heart of Midlothian, and later journeyed through the top English teams Manchester City and Bolton.
Martin Rennie offered these parting words in the press release:
"He's helped set a culture where people have high expectations and also looked out for one another. That's real impressive to me from someone who has already been there, seen it, done it. And he was still willing to completely buy in to what we're doing. And that was amazing to me."
Ritchie is now working toward his UEFA "A" coaching license. In fact, while watching practice last week while reporting a story, I noticed Ritchie stopping play and giving instruction to the other defenders. I asked Rennie about it later, and he confirmed that Ritchie was preparing for his "A" license assessment.
It's interesting that Ritchie mentioned the short season. I checked the calendar the other day and realized that there are only two more full months of the regular season—and it feels like the season has only just begun. In fact, it feels like the entire USL season takes place during the European off-season—which is very short indeed.
The RailHawks hit the field again tonight at 7 p.m., against the Portland Timbers.