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07 / 24

Personality Matches Position for United’s Leigh Rumbold

WRITTEN BY: Nick Barnowski
PUBLISHED ON: July 24, 2014

Even though light travels faster than sound, you’re more likely to hear Leigh Rumbold before you see him.

And he wouldn’t want it any other way.

The Lansing United midfielder’s English accent echoes throughout the East Lansing Soccer Complex whenever he’s on the field, but as those close to him would say, that’s just his personality shining through.

“Well, I’ve been told by a girlfriend that I talk a lot,” he said. “But I don’t know if everybody can understand what I’m saying.”

Whether he’s calling for a pass or directing traffic from the midfield, Rumbold’s loud, high-energy nature while playing parallels his passion for the sport.

“The way I’ve been told I play is all or nothing,” he said. “I go after it, I’m loud, I’m not afraid to play up.”

Rumbold’s childhood greatly influenced his playing style.

He was raised in Heatherside, England, a small town located 25 minutes outside of London, and fell into a daily routine that revolved around the game. Football wasn’t just a sport for him growing up – it was a lifestyle.

“We play football all day, every day back at home,” the 25-year-old said. “We used to get out of school early and play. We’d play before school started. We’d play during recess. We’d skip having lunch just to play.”

Rumbold’s strongest football memories as a kid came while playing with his dad, Ian.

“My dad got me playing at a young age,” said Rumbold, an avid Manchester United supporter. “After work, he’d always take me after school to the park and teach me how to head the ball, teach me how to tackle, and kick it around a little bit.”

After playing, they’d typically head to the Wheatsheaf Pub, which was in walking distance from their house, where the elder Rumbold would buy his son lemonade if he made progress on the pitch.

School occupied Rumbold’s non-soccer schedule. While in class he studied communications, which he said has benefited him while playing.

“I like to give information. I like to help people out all the time, so if I pass somebody the ball and they’ve got space, I’ll tell them they’ve got space. It just comes automatically.”

He finished school at 16 and elected not to go to university, saying that he didn’t like being in a classroom.

He instead took coaching courses and quickly earned his necessary badges. A representative from Challenger Sports met Rumbold and offered him a position coaching in the United States.

Rumbold had previously tried to attend college in the U.S. on a soccer scholarship, but lost his amateurism status because he had played club football at home. He didn’t want to miss out on going abroad again, and accepted the position, with some help from his mom, Lynn.

“[My mom] kind of forced me out the door in a nice way,” he said. “She’d never been abroad and she wanted me to explore different countries.”

At age 18, Rumbold was one of the youngest coaches to work for the company, and settled into his new lifestyle with ease. He’s still coaching and is based in the Midwest region, leaving him to call Michigan home for the majority of the year.

He lives in the U.S. on a nine-month visa, living here from the middle of March to the middle of November. While he spends most of spring working in Saline, his summers are organized chaos. Rumbold is constantly on the move, staying in a different city each week, which is why he wasn’t able to play in every United game this season.

“I might be in the Upper Peninsula one week doing a summer camp, then I might be in Lansing the next week, then I could be in Wisconsin the next,” he explained. “I have a different home family each time, so I stay with different host families during the summer. I get used to moving about and get used to places pretty quickly.”

Rumbold plays for a club called Slough Town FC when he’s back in England, but Lansing United is the first organized team he’s played for in the U.S. since taking the coaching job. As soon as he returns to England for the winter, he begins training with Slough, who play in the Southern League Premier Division. The differences between the two are real, he said, notably in the way the ball is passed, but smaller situations have taken him off guard as well.

“Even little stuff like lining up before the game and having your national anthem played, that doesn’t happen back at home,” said Rumbold, whose trademark long hair is popular with the fans. “In fact, my girlfriend told me off a couple of times because when they said my name I didn’t wave to anybody. I didn’t know what was going on.”

He heard about United from now-teammate Boyzzz Khumalo. The two were coaching together and Khumalo introduced him to head coach Eric Rudland. Once they connected, it was an easy sell.

“As soon as I heard about it I went up for it because normally I don’t get to play out here,” Rumbold said. “That’s one of the massive things I miss being away from home is the amount of football you play.”

He’s certainly proved himself in Lansing. With a trip to the NPSL National Playoffs powered by Mitre USA coming up, Rumbold has been one of the team’s most consistent performers. He’s anchored the central midfield in nine games this season, coming up big defensively and picking his spots to contribute offensively. His lone goal of the season came three minutes into the Midwest Region championship match against Fort Pitt, giving United the early lead they needed.

“It’s pretty rare I even get in the opposition’s box, let alone score a goal,” he said after the match. “I think it’s been about four years since I’ve scored a goal.”

On the score sheet or not, the thrill of being on the pitch is what Rumbold craves. The added success the team has enjoyed makes it even sweeter.

“I had no idea what I was getting into, I had no idea how big it was going to be,” he said. “It’s crazy, way past my expectations.”