Bill Elliott is in his first season as the Chattanooga Football Club's coach. Yet during last Saturday's scrimmage against the Nashville Metros, the Hixson native spent the first half in the stands at Finley Stadium watching his new team.
The men's soccer coach at the University of West Florida, Elliott wasn't able to join the CFC team until late April, after he wrapped up the school year in Pensacola. The scrimmage -- CFC blew out the Metros 6-2 -- gave him a chance to evaluate the players who had joined the team.
"It was very valuable, because what I saw is really about all I know," Elliott said. "The players that I'm more familiar with are the ones that came to our tryouts and excelled at our tryouts. ... It was valuable in getting to know the players. Some I knew from the tryout and others it was my first time seeing them play."
Some of the players -- ones he asked to join CFC -- Elliott knew from collegiate soccer. One of them was midfielder Carl Reynolds, who scored the first two goals in the scrimmage.
"I was pleased that he made a good impression in the scrimmage," Elliott said, adding that he was also impressed with the play of Fynn Glover, one of the original CFC players, who did not play last summer.
After spending the first 40 minutes or so watching his squad and taking notes, Elliott said he moved over to stand among the Chattahooligans -- CFC's drum-beating, chant-screaming fanatical fans.
"I wanted to go see what that was all about. I love those guys," he said. "I went near the end of the first half, and after about five minutes one of them looked at me and goes, 'Hey, aren't you our coach?'"
Chattanooga FC wasn't at full strength during the scrimmage because some players were finishing school and trickled in this week. The team will be shorthanded again Saturday night when it opens its fourth season against the Knoxville Force at Finley Stadium. A few players won't be available, including veteran defender Andy Stewart, who is graduating from Milligan College that day.
Saturday's opener is the first of 10 games against National Premier Soccer League Southeast Conference opponents, including six against teams from the West division (CFC, Knoxville, Rocket City United and Mississippi Storm).
NCAA rules prohibit Elliott from coaching any of his current players, which has made for an interesting situation. CFC visits defending NPSL champion Jacksonville United on July 7 in the season finale, and Jacksonville is coached by Pat Cannon, who played for Elliott. In addition, several of Elliott's current players are on Jacksonville's roster.
That game is a long way down the road. Until then, Elliott is trying to get to know his team and get CFC off to a good start.