Johnny Clifford: The Man with a Plan

The Texas Story Project.

January 7th, 2011. That’s the date everything changed for Johnny Clifford. This was the day he was leaving his home, family and friends in Scotland, for the Land of the Free. He was off to the University of Cincinnati, a D1 college, to continue to pursue his goal of professional soccer, whilst also getting a degree under his belt. Three and a half years, a major injury that prevented his professional dream, and many other setbacks later, Johnny was set to take on Texas (Summer ‘14).

Hot weather, outlandish dancing, and super-size food portions all tickled the fancy of Johnny, who was used to no such thing being a Scotsman. and he fell in love with the Lone Star State almost immediately. He was getting ready to compete in what would be his final year of college soccer, with a degree also in sight. However, it wasn’t on the field that Johnny found the majority of his success. It was on the sidelines.

Later on that year, Johnny met a man by the name of Matt Barnes. The two of them hit it off, and Matt offered Johnny to become his assistant coach at San Francisco State University soccer team for fall 2015. This was a big chance for Johnny to pursue his coaching career, but it didn’t take long for him to come running back to Texas. Due to Matt Barnes’ coaching credentials, he was offered a role as a coach in the PDL, a soccer league that many players and coaches participate in during the summer, outside of their college. Barnes duly accepted to take charge in the summer of 2016, and Johnny, once again, was offered to join his coaching staff.

Midland was their destination, coaching the Midland Odessa Sockers. It was here where Johnny recalls his favorite-Texas based memory. The team massively exceeded expectations in the PDL that year, reaching the Semi Finals, which they lost to the Michigan Bucks in a hard-fought game. The duo of Barnes and Clifford had gained some attention from colleges all over the USA, some of which were D1. However, as the summer of 2016 came to a close, it was San Antonio they found themselves in. St Mary’s University welcomed them with open arms. This would turn out to be Johnny’s hardest year to date, however, as he and Barnes failed to turn an already-struggling team into a successful one and they finished with only 5 wins to their names.

Despite the lack of success, Johnny found himself hitting the jackpot over the Christmas break, finding his now wife, Sarah. The two of them spent a few months getting to know each other, before finally becoming a couple. It didn’t take long for Johnny to pop the question. Months of planning went into their big day, and the couple finally tied the knot. Johnny went into his second year at St Mary’s a new man. Happily married, and more motivated than ever to succeed as an assistant coach, he and Barnes recruited strongly, bringing in over 10 new players to the team. This was clearly a successful decision, as the fall of 2017 saw the St Mary’s men’s soccer team have the best season in over 15 years. The successes of that season saw Barnes get a job offer from an international side that he couldn’t refuse, meaning the Head Coach’s job was vacant. This was Johnny’s big chance. He refused numerous job offers to take over as head coach at St Mary’s, and got off to a great start. He won his first 5 games, and drew the 6th, and led the team to a national ranking of #8. He is now currently preparing his team for the conference, and it’s no secret that his team means business.

In conclusion, Johnny’s Texas story has been full of ups and downs, but it’s fair to say he wouldn’t change it for the world. The state he fell in love with as soon as he arrived is now home, and he very much looks forward to starting his own family here in the near future.


My name is Oliver Wright, and I am an international student from London, England. I play soccer at St. Mary’s University and I am a Criminal Justice major. I’m 19 years of age, and came to America in August 2017. The reason I decided to interview my coach was because he, like myself, came over to the United States from the UK. I felt that we would have a lot in common, and that it would be a good way to compare how America changed both of our lives, and also gave me a good insight on what life could have in store for me in the future.

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