A new adventure after Wembley - The Province
BY MARC WEBER
Shaun Pejic has an added incentive to make things work in North America. If he can find a niche here and last a few years, he'll have a heck of story to tell his grandkids.
The last game Pejic played in England was at Wembley Stadium.
"Yeah, not a bad thing to say really, is it?" Pejic obliged. "It was a great life experience to play in that game -- 30 or 40,000 people there and, even though we lost, an amazing day out."
The Vancouver Whitecaps signed the 6-foot-2 central defender for the remainder of the season plus a club option for 2010 on Wednesday. He'd been on trial since last week.
Pejic, 26, spent nine seasons with Welsh club Wrexham AFC, debuting for the club when it was part of the third tier of English soccer, now known as League One. He was released in February with Wrexham in the fifth-tier Conference National, but signed on with another Conference National side in York City and in May found himself starting the FA Trophy Final at Wembley, a 2-0 loss to Stevenage Borough.
The FA Trophy is a knockout competition for the bottom four tiers of English soccer, like the FA Cup is for the top tiers.
Pejic didn't originally plan on signing with York City. He first tested USL waters in January, talking to Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson among others, but there were no bites. The situation has since changed dramatically for Vancouver.
Justin Thompson quit to pursue business interests in early June, and things worsened last month with the release of Wesley Charles and departure of Jeff Parke to Europe.
The Whitecaps signed Canadian Chris Pozniak two weeks ago.
"I hope I can help the guys keep some clean sheets and get them up the league a little bit," said Pejic, who was raised in Chester, England, but was able to play for the Wales under-21 team because his grandparents are Welsh.
"It's a slightly different game over here. Everyone presses a lot more and the possession gets switched over a lot more. I'm used to more possession and sitting back, but I'm comfortable and confident I can do well."
Without a wife or kids, and getting into the latter part of his professional career, Pejic said this move was as much about adventure as anything. He went to Florida on a family holiday when he was a kid, but that's it for his North American experience.
He's friends with Welshman and former Wrexham defender Gareth Evans, who plays for the USL-1 Austin Aztex, and Evans talked up the league. The two have since talked about kicking each other when the clubs meet twice down the stretch.
"I talked to him about the standard and about touring around and seeing North America," said Pejic, who figures he's 80-90 per cent fit despite not seeing game action since May.
"What a great opportunity to see an amazing part of the world.
"I love it here so far. It's a beautiful city."
© Copyright (c) The Province