Residency program still young, but already paying dividends
Last week, Whitecaps FC kicked off their 2012 preseason camp and included in the squad are three young Canadians from the club's Residency program in Caleb Clarke, Ben Fisk, and Callum Irving. This is in addition to program grads Russell Teibert and Bryce Alderson.
It was also confirmed prior to the start of training camp that Philippe Davies has left the club. Now, don’t for a second think that everyone at the club doesn’t wish the best for Phil – he’s a great person and a bright young soccer player who has a strong future to look forward to in the game of soccer – but I know from experience that it’s about being in the right situation at the right time.
My career took off when I came to Vancouver to play for Whitecaps FC from Oldham Athletic in England. I was fortunate enough to come into the right situation. The ‘Caps had a great team – they made the playoffs the year before – but I was able to provide something that the team may have been missing at the time. Phil, meanwhile, developed through our Residency program. Whitecaps FC invested in his soccer career and have been very proud to do so, and I’m certain he’ll tell you that he benefitted from being a part of the Residency program. Unfortunately, Phil came into a tougher situation once he graduated through the program, and he may have had more chances in the first team if the results had been kinder on the field last season. It’s nothing personal, and of course it’s disappointing to lose a young Canadian, but sometimes as a player you need to move to a situation that may be a better fit for you at the time. In my opinion, Phil has the talent to make it as a professional, all he needs is a fresh start to jumpstart his career.
With that being said, our goal as a club remains – as it always has – to develop Canadian talent. That’s why our owners have invested millions of dollars into our elite development programs. They wouldn’t do so if they didn’t care about the welfare and future of Canadian soccer, because as you know, money doesn’t grow on trees.
The Residency program is still young in itself. With how far we’ve already come in recent years, sometimes people lose grasp of how much Canadian soccer development still has to grow. But who says we haven’t already had some success? Teibert started several MLS matches last season with great success and Alderson is coming into his own now that he's making the jump to the first team. Furthermore, the three Residency youngsters in camp are making quite an impression on the Whitecaps FC coaching staff.
Richmond, BC, native Clarke is a striker that has shown a lot of maturity; he makes intelligent runs, holds the ball up well, and is very cool in front of goal.
Vancouver, BC, native Fisk is what I call an’ impact player’ – not the Montreal kind though, Ben is a 'Caps man through and through. He is very comfortable on the ball with very quick feet and he loves to take players on, and he also has a keen eye for a good pass.
Caleb and Ben have both recently been called up to the Canadian U-20 national team camp. Each of them impressed during Martin Rennie’s mini-camp in November and were rewarded by having the chance to train with the first team and again show their stuff in preseason.
The third player is Vancouverite Callum Irving, a goalkeeper that has been called up to the Canadian U-18 national team and is highly rated by Whitecaps FC goalkeeper coach Marius Rovde. He will have a great opportunity to gain some valuable experience training with the first team, especially having veteran Joe Cannon as a mentor.
I am excited by the future of Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and that’s largely because of our Residency program. Players such as Alderson, Clarke, Fisk, Irving, and Teibert are the next batch of youngsters knocking on the door, looking to make their mark at both club and country. And there are a number of other players not that far behind.
With young talent like this coming through, who says the future is not bright – for Whitecaps FC, and for each and every one of our Canadian players.
Since 1979, Carl Valentine has been an integral part of the soccer community in Vancouver. A club legend, Carl was a key player for the Whitecaps FC team that won the 1979 North American Soccer League (NASL) Soccer Bowl, as well as the 86ers squads that won four Canadian Soccer League (CSL) titles. Now, Carl represents the 'Caps as club ambassador. Make sure to check back regularly for his columns and videos as part of 'The TWO ONE'.