The Orange County Blues announced a major shift in their coaching staff on Friday, as former head coach Oliver Wyss was promoted to Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and Barry Venison was appointed Head Coach. Both men will keep their other prior roles with the club — Wyss as general manager and Venison as technical director.
“Barry has been a mentor to the entire coaching staff and his experience and knowledge have been vital to the success of the team over the past 18 months,” said Wyss in a team statement. “I am looking forward to supporting him and the coaching staff as we lead the Blues forward into this exciting new chapter for the team.”
The club statement on the shift noted that Wyss’ new role with the team will include oversight of a new OC Blues academy program as well as expansion of the front office staff and marketing efforts.
This is the first pro head coaching appointment for Venison, who played professionally in his native England and in Turkey from 1981-1997, with Sunderland, Liverpool, Newcastle United, Galatasaray and Southampton. Earning two caps for the English national team, he also won two first division league titles and an FA Cup with Liverpool during his career.
While the move indicates quite a shake-up during the middle of the USL season, the reality is that Venison from gameday appearances has been serving as the Blues’ head coach for several weeks so far this season, with Wyss not appearing to be on the sideline during matches for some time. And the good news is that Venison has been patrolling the bench during OC’s recent improved form, which has helped bolster their playoff hopes after a rocky first half of the season.
Venison did comment on the hiring, to The Telegraph’s Bob Williams on Friday:
“I’ve been the head coach here in all but name any way,” Venison said. “Nothing has changed at all – it is just a title change.
“Everyone who has been associated with OC Blues know that has been the set-up here but it has now been made public.
“My day-to-day is exactly the same as it has been for the past 18 months.
“This is not a role that goes four years into the future – I will be looking at my options at the end of the season, which, if we don’t make the play-off, is four weeks’ time.”
Venison’s first official game in charge is Saturday at home against the Blues’ local rivals, LA Galaxy II.