After knowing nothing but British soccer, Barry Robson wanted a change.
Yes, he had alternatives in England and Scotland when his contract with second-tier English side Middlesbrough FC expired, but at age 33, he wanted a new challenge.
Whitecaps FC supporters will have a chance to meet Robson this Wednesday night at 7 p.m. PT, as the midfielder will be signing autographs at the Bell Box - located at Terry Fox Plaza beside BC Place - before the ‘Caps match versus New York at 8 p.m. PT.
“I had a few options,” Robson told reporters following his Vancouver Whitecaps FC introduction at BC Place on Monday. “Middlesbrough offered me another contract as well, and if I waited it out until the summer, I might have had a few more. I don’t know. I spoke in great depth to [head coach Martin Rennie and assistant Paul Ritchie] and my wife and we sat and had a lot of long discussions.
WATCH: Robson introduced in Vancouver
“To be fair, I’m saying long discussions – it wasn’t even that long. My wife’s eyes lit up as soon as she knew, and my eyes did, too, and I just thought, ‘Yeah, this is it. This feels right. This is what we’re going to do,’ and we managed to push it through.”
Robson joins Vancouver on a three-year contract as a Designated Player, joining Eric Hassli in that category on the Whitecaps FC books.
The versatile midfielder is fresh off a grueling English League Championship campaign with Boro, during which his side fell just short of the final playoff position behind Cardiff City FC. Robson scored seven goals in 36 league matches.
The Scot says he’ll need time to adapt to what he feels is a different style of soccer in North America, and admitted he still has to learn a lot about his new team and the league.
“I think it’s a good product,” Robson said. “I think the product is getting better. It’s different to what I’m used to, it’s hard to explain the way it is in England or Scotland. It’s a bit different. It can be a bit slower here, but I think it’s unbelievably athletic, the players, when I look at them.
“It’s something I’m looking forward to. It’s been hard for me to see as many games as I would like, but I’ll see them pretty quickly in two weeks’ time when I’m involved with them.”
Robson has played in the final 16 of the UEFA Champions League with Scottish giants Celtic FC, and represented Scotland at international level. He was non-committal about his international future, but was clearly excited about where his new league is going.
“It’s a great league, and I think it’s getting bigger,” Robson said. “I think David Beckham has helped it, Robbie Keane has come over, Thierry Henry. I think the young American footballers and Canadian footballers are getting better all the time. I’ve played in England and Scotland my whole career, and I’ve always said I wanted to do something different.
“This gives me the opportunity to play in a league that is expanding, getting better all the time, and live in a beautiful country, and I think, why not?”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.