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Mellor happy to be coaching for RSL

Amiable assistant loves his work, loves to bring joy to others

Players may tease Peter Mellor for his English accent, his hip-replacement limp and his sometimes forgetful nature, but they're all endearing Mellorisms that give the Real Salt Lake assistant coach his very unique personality.

When he's in a joking mood with Mellor, RSL head coach John Ellinger likes to remind his long-time friend about how he used to refer to Landon Donovan as "Langdon" Donovan when all three of them were with the U.S. National Team Under-17 Residency Program.

Mellor takes the playful banter all in stride, because quite honestly, he loves to dish it out as well.

Mellor, 54, is at a stage in his life when he couldn't be happier, and he tries to pass that joy along to everyone he comes in contact with. Each day at practice, he attempts to shake all of his players' hands, and realistically, anyone else who happens to be at Rice-Eccles Stadium that day.

"Life's too short not to smile," said Mellor. "I try and brighten everybody's day every morning. With what people have to put up with in the world, we cannot complain. We have it made. Sometimes we lose sight of that as young players, and sometimes older professionals."

For as much soccer wisdom as there is in the mind of the former pro goalkeeper, there's equally as much blue collar experience in his hands. Raised in Manchester, England, Mellor's hardworking hands helped carve out an 18-year career in the English Premiere League; led him to Florida, where he owned and operated a professional landscaping business for over a decade, and now has him training goalies for Real Salt Lake.

And what about everything else in between? Well, RSL defender Brian Dunseth may joke that Mellor's stories could put anyone to sleep, but it's only because Mellor has so many stories to tell.

There's the story about getting nutmegged in the 1975 F.A. Cup final in Wembley Stadium while playing for Fulham.

There's the story about playing in countless "Showbiz and Commentators" charity matches with English legends like Denis Law, Ian St. John and John Motson.

There's the story about how he bought a piece property on his first visit to America, and then ultimately lived on that same property for 20 years.

There's the story about how the U.S. government tried to send him back to England, even though he'd been in the States for nearly three years and owned a legitimate soccer business in Florida.

Soccer has taken him around the world as a player and a coach, but now that he's settled in Utah for what could be his final stop, the stories are slowing down, but the enjoyment of being involved in soccer hasn't stopped.

Since moving to Utah earlier this year after 20 years in Florida, Mellor and his wife, Valerie, enjoy a pretty simple life in their South Jordan home.

"We couldn't be happier," said Mellor.

The only thing that could make Mellor happier right now is if Real Salt Lake could continue its winning ways.

So exactly how does a British lad end up in Salt Lake City? You simply go where the game takes you.

As a professional goalkeeper in England from 1963 to 1980, Mellor played more than 800 league and cup matches for Manchester City, Burnley, Fulham, Hereford and Portsmouth. Things began to change for him in 1981.

"I was getting to the crossroads of my career at 35," said Mellor.

He knew if he stayed in Portsmouth for the final two years of his contract, he would likely be the backup to a young up-and-comer named Allen Knight. So when an offer to join the Edmonton Drillers in the North American Soccer League came along, he took it.

What ultimately changed his life for good occurred in the interim. Months before joining Edmonton, the Showbiz and Commentators took their charitable soccer matches on the road, this time to Florida.

"By the time I'd left, not only had I fallen in love with the place, but I'd bought a piece of land," said Mellor. "I went back and told my wife, and said maybe this is something we should consider. She was shocked."

The Mellors ultimately decided that he would retire after a season at Edmonton, and they'd relocate to Florida and build a home.

Always one to respect the game, Mellor didn't try and show-off his impressive soccer resume around the sporting community in Florida to land a job, instead opting to simply enroll his son in youth soccer, and then simply sit back and learn the nuances of the American game.

After those two years, he believed he had something to offer.

So he got involved with club soccer at the youth level, and started taking his classes to become a certified coach in America. He'd gone through similar steps during his days in England, but "the European license really isn't looked on here as something that will get you through, you have to do it the American way."

Gradually, other coaches began noticing Mellor's tremendous ability to instruct goalkeepers, and eventually he was asked to help coach the regional youth teams.

His big coaching break came in 1990.

At one of the regional tournaments, Mellor was asked by then-U.S. National Team coach Bob Gansler to watch all the goalkeepers at the tournament and identify the best one. With nearly a hundred keepers to analyze from ages 15 to 18, at the end of the tournament Mellor informed Gansler that the keeper with the most potential was a 15-year-old named Tim Howard.

Little did he know that Howard would go on to play for Manchester United in the English Premier League.

Soon the U.S. National Team came calling, and in 1992 he was invited to be help train the goalies for the National B Team. One of the assistant coaches of that team was Ellinger.

A friendship was immediately formed, and 13 years later, they're still trying to one up the other with practical jokes. The Mellor and Ellinger friendship didn't really start taking off until 1998, when they became the head coach and assistant coach of the U-17 Residency Program, that ultimately churned out players like Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and D.J. Countess in that first year.

During the five years in between, Mellor was invited by various national team coaches at all levels to help train their goalies — responsibilities that led him to the U-17 championships in Ecuador in 1995, the U-17 championships in Egypt in 1997, and then the U-20 championships in Malaysia in 1997.

In 1997, he was asked by the U.S. National Team to come aboard as the full-time National Team goalkeeping coach. So he sold his landscaping business, and retired the hands that could build the best outdoor rock waterfalls and fireplaces in Florida.

For the next seven years, he coached alongside Ellinger with the U-17s, and continued to coach American goalkeepers.

Mellor's life took another drastic turn last October when his buddy Ellinger was offered the coaching job for Major League Soccer expansion franchise Real Salt Lake.

"He'd been my right-hand man for all those years, and was my first choice as an assistant," said Ellinger.

When Ellinger asked Mellor if he would join him in the Rocky Mountains, Mellor said this particular decision was completely up to his wife.

"I'd drug her all around England and the world, and she hadn't had much of a say," said Mellor.

Just two years before, the Mellors moved out of their original Florida home and relocated to Longboat Key, Fla., a palatial location along the Gulf coast. He had his boat in the water, and were in the perfect place to retire about 10 years later.

On their first visit to Salt Lake City in October, Valerie loved it, but got cold feet the night before they left. They returned a month later, but this time Valerie wasn't scared away by the snow.

"The moment we landed, she said, 'I want to come. There's something about this place that makes me feel so nice and comfortable,' " said Mellor.

When Ellinger got the phone call, he was ecstatic.

"He has a great personality with the staff and players," said Ellinger. "Peter is a man of integrity and principles. He's pretty open about what professional athletes should be like."

One of the things he believes professionals should be is happy, which is why you'll rarely see Mellor not in a good mood at practice.