The Business of Soccer
Gary Wright brought together the Savannah Magic and Coastal Georgia Soccer Association. In uniting a team, he united a community.
oaching in the United States for 20 years now, Gary Wright has been the glue binding Savannah United together since 2013 when he helped merge two local soccer clubs. After playing professional soccer in England starting at 18, a knee injury pushed Wright into coaching much earlier than expected.
Wright wasn’t new to the world of professional soccer when he got picked up by his hometown team, Torquay United. For the last 30 years neither his father nor grandfather had ever missed a match. Playing for Torquay gave him the opportunity to rival with premier teams in cup competitions on the field and eventually lead him to play for Yoevil Town, another professional soccer club in England that was ranked as a division two team. Unfortunately, in his late 20s, Wright suffered a knee injury. Much like in American sports, Wright says, “if you are lucky with injuries you can play through your thirties.” Wright wasn’t.
Refusing to let his injury cripple his love of the sport, Wright moved to Sweden for three years where he coached a youth program at the premier Swedish club, Vastra Frolunda and then later became one of the head coaches at Swedish division one club, Skovde A.I.K.
Toward the end of Wright’s time in Sweden, an American touring group attended the youth version of the World Cup, known as the Gothia Cup. As the group’s coach for the week, Wright befriended Southern Charm: Savannah’s, Daniel Eichholz’s father, Benny. At the time, Wright was coaching Daniel’s older brother, David.
Towards the end of the soccer season, Eichholz invited Wright to Savannah for four weeks to coach. After visiting America twice, Wright was set to leave his career in Sweden and move to America where he took over the local soccer club, Savannah Magic. Once he had run the club for a couple of years, Wright decided to merge with the Coastal Georgia Soccer Association to create Savannah United, a full-service soccer club. With more than 2,000 kids currently in the program, the club has found much of its success in combining the two entities. Wright says, “it was quite an easy transition to be fair and we felt that the name kind of unified things.”
In efforts to unite the community, Savannah United defines itself as more of a family club, teaching soccer to those who just learned to walk all the way to high school graduates. The club branches in age as well as skill, offering recreational as well as competitive and travel soccer.
Wright’s days continued to be filled with coaching as well as attending multiple tournaments every weekend. While some base Savannah United’s success on the size of their club, Wright prefers to mention both of their girl’s teams becoming the first to win the state championship in May. With around 2,000 players at all times, they’ve lost track of the trophies and awards they’ve won.
But that’s not to say they don’t continue to grow. Savannah United is currently in the process of building three new soccer fields as well as another complex by January and that’s just a few months in the making. Having coached players like Morgan Brian, who is currently on the on the US national team and Indy Vassilev, who is now playing at the Aston Villa professional club in England, Wright and the team at Savannah United hope to one day expand throughout the Southeast.•