ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Neill Collins said that when he played soccer, he always approached the game from a coach's perspective.
"I always felt I was a coach who played," said Collins, the Tampa Bay Rowdies head coach. "I've always thought about being a coach, I really don't miss playing, because I'm so involved in the game."
Collins played for the Rowdies from 2016 through his hiring as the team's new head coach in 2018. Before that, the Troon, Scotland native played for the Scottish national under 21 team and had a five-year stint with Sheffield United in England.
Just 38 years old, Collins brings a world of knowledge and an intense passion to the Rowdies.
Midfielder Leo Fernandes was a teammate of Collins with the Rowdies, and now is under Collins' tutelage. Fernandes said that intensity Collins showed as a player remains intact.
"The same as a player as he is a coach," said Fernandes. "That probably is one of his best qualities as a coach. If you're not into it, if you're not intense in training, he'll let you know."
Watching Coach Collins work out logistics with his team is an event unto itself. He stays in perpetual motion. Mostly, he gets the most out of each player as he gives the most of himself in the effort.
"We've all had coaches that will tell you what they want," said Fernades. "But the message isn't always clear. With Neill [Collins] it's crystal clear."
Collins' approach is certainly resonating with the Rowdies. The defending USL Coach of the Year has his team within four points of first place in the league's Eastern Conference.
The team plays host to Atlanta United at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night, July 23 at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg.
That voice you hear from the pitch will likely be from the man offering advice and encouragement in an intensely passionate manner. The voice of Neill Collins.