Stratford Continues Long-Held Coaching Dreams With Move To WVU/h4>
MORGANTOWN, W.VA. – West Virginia University director of athletics Shane Lyons was all smiles when he introduced the Mountaineers’ new head men’s soccer coach, Dan Stratford, this past weekend.
“It’s always a great day to be a Mountaineer,” Lyons said, paraphrasing the famous line coined by WVU play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi. “Today we have an opportunity to introduce our 10th men’s soccer coach in the history of West Virginia University soccer.
“We started this (coaching search) about a month ago when the opening became available, and we indicated that we would do a national search. We had the opportunity to do that,” continued Lyons. “Throughout that search, one name just kept coming to the top. If you look at it, (Stratford) was about 155 miles away. We looked at people two and three thousand miles away, and the guy closest to home had the ability to do just that, come back home to West Virginia University.”
A native of London, England, Stratford was recruited to WVU as a soccer player in 2004, and in four seasons with the Mountaineers, he helped lead the program to three NCAA Tournament berth.
Following his graduation from West Virginia, he embarked on a four-year professional career, playing for D.C. United (2008), Inverness Caledonian Thistle (2009-10) and Hereford United (2010-11).
His coaching career took off after that, ultimately leading him back to his alma mater.
“I’m excited to be here,” said Stratford. “It feels like a bit of a homecoming for me.
“It’s crazy to think that in 2004 as a freshman I stepped foot not just in the United States for the first time but here in Morgantown, West Virginia, for the first time. Now we’ve gone full circle, and I’m back as the head coach.
“I joked the other day that my former head coach (Marlon LeBlanc) would have had a hard time believing that I would have ever have been in this position,” he chuckled. “As a freshman I caused him plenty of problems.”
After his own playing days came to an end, Stratford moved into the coaching realm, spending three years as an assistant at WVU (2011-13) and three more as an assistant at the University of Charleston (2014-16). When UC’s highly-success head coach Chris Grassie was hired to lead Marshall’s men’s soccer program after the 2016 season, Stratford moved into the head coaching position at Charleston. He took an already-good Golden Eagle program and made it even better, posting a record of 61-4-5 in three seasons at UC and winning the NCAA Division II national championship in 2017 and 2019.
“Coaching was something I was interested in from a young age,” Stratford noted. “In my career as a younger player, I thought to myself, probably at the age of 15 or 16, that I’m probably going to be better at coaching than playing. My biggest influence was my father. He coached me the whole way during my youth career. He’s the best coach I ever played for, and I’m taking bias out of that. Seeing how many lives he touched, I think that had a huge influence on me getting into coaching. I always had passion for the tactical side of things, always was intrigued by how you develop a player and improve a player, even while I was playing. (Coaching) was never far away.”
And now coaching has brought him back to West Virginia University.