Martin Linley … you will be missed

The last time I saw Martin Linley he was sitting in the stands at Marin Catholic High School watching Calistoga High play Branson for the NCS soccer title.

The next-to-last time I saw Martin Linley he was standing on the sidelines watching Analy play at Marin Catholic in a NCS soccer playoff game.

The next-to-next last time I saw Martin Linley he was in the stands at Analy High School watching Analy play Windsor in a high school soccer game.

You kinda get the picture, here, don’t you?

Martin Linley loved the game of soccer.

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I can’t recall the first time Martin and I crossed paths, dozen years ago I would guess. At the time I was involved with Santa Rosa United and I’d convinced then SRU coaching director Chris Ziemer that the club needed to expand. Too many good players in the area, not enough Level I club teams.

Chris hatched the concept of Gold and Blue teams at all age levels. Rather ambitious, but if were done right it could benefit a lot of kids and a lot of good coaches who were just sitting around.

Chris said he would find me a coach for a U17 Blue team and in walked Martin. The SRU Galaxy was born and Martin had the charge to find players. He found them all right, from Calistoga and Fort Bragg and Mendocino and Willits and Rohnert Park. They practiced wherever Martin could find a field. They didn’t win a whole lot and while it bothered him, just getting better was all he was looking for.

And he gave. He gave his time. He gave his energy. He gave his money. He threw team parties as his home. He brought electric scooters to practices for the players to fool around on. He bought the practice balls out of his own bank account and labled them: “Stolen from Martin Linley” just in case they went astray.

That was Martin.

He called his players “pups” and “donkeys” and “mates.”

That was Martin.

He coached at Analy and Calistoga and on the club level at SRU for several seasons. And he often lamented the fact that SRU would never offer him a Gold team (presumably better players) to coach.

I didn’t know the answer to that one.

Politics. Numbers. Who knows…

From my perspective the Gold/Blue thing at SRU never did blossom the way it could have or should have.

Coaches like Martin were labeled Blue coaches and that was that. The concept lost its focus.

Martin probably should have been offered a chance at the Gold level, but that would have come to the detriment of every Blue player who ever played for him. They never would have had the Linley effect.

He touched them all. Every one of them. I assure you, no player who ever played for Martin Linley, including my two sons, will ever forget him.

On one of those last meetings with Martin I mentioned to him a new movie that had come out – “The Damned United” – and the focal point of the film was Leeds United.

“I didn’t know about that movie,” Martin said. “I was there during that period they are talking about. I’ll go check it out.”

He did. And a week or so later he told me. “It was OK, but not great. I really liked the vintage footage and the uniforms they wore back then.”

Go see that film if you get a chance and picture Martin in those short soccer shorts on a pitch somewhere in England as a youth. You will smile.

Martin, you will be missed. Immensely.