On Thursday, the new HFX Wanderers FC named Stephen Hart as their first head coach and general manager.
A former coach of the Canadian men’s national team, Hart also served as Trinidad and Tobago’s national team coach from 2013 to 2016.
Derek Martin, founder and president of Sports & Entertainment Atlantic, said Hart’s name was constantly repeated as dreams of bringing a Canadian Premier League team to Halifax started to become a reality.
“He’s been at every level, he’s had success, that goes without saying, but what I really enjoyed was getting to know the man and I think the man is someone who represents what we want our club to be,” Martin told a crowd of soccer fans gathered at the Wanderers Grounds for the announcement.
Hart smiled and told the crowd he is known for liking “a certain type of game,” one he said he will not change nor apologize for.
“This will be about inspiring young players, it will be about putting a product on the field that we can enjoy and cheer for,” Hart said.
“This is brand new so, like in building anything, it takes time. It will take time to get things right, but along the way … it’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be adventurous, I can promise you that.”
Hart served two stints as head coach of the Canadian national men’s team, the first as interim coach in 2006 and 2007. He then took over the national team full time in 2009 before quitting in the wake of Canada’s 8-1 loss in Honduras in October 2012.
That defeat ended Canada’s World Cup qualifying bid at the time.
Hart’s record during his two stints at the helm of the Canadian men’s team was 20-15-10.
In an interview, he said he learned a lot from coaching the national men’s team.
“The first major lesson is that our player base was probably too small and it’s a result of young players that are trying to break through not having a place to cut their teeth, so to speak. I think this (league) will address that, very much so,” Hart said.
He said to be competitive on the world soccer stage, Canada “desperately” needed a league of its own.
“We are probably the last country that’s trying to qualify for world events without a league. There’s a lot of talk about Iceland but Iceland not only has a premier league, they have four divisions of soccer, and here we are 30 million people and we didn’t even have one division,” Hart noted.
“So now this is more of a national league rather than each province having its own league and us being fractured. Hopefully this will build into something that goes across the entire country.”
Hart will now begin the task of finding the new club’s players.
“In order for that game to be part of all of us, it comes down to the players. It’s not going to be about me,” Hart said.
“At the end of the day, players they bring the product to the field, they’re on the stage and they’re the ones who are going to have to perform.”
Hart will now begin the task of determining the new club’s players and its style of play. He’ll kick-start his scouting of local talent as he puts together a team of Atlantic Under-23 Selects.
They’ll play an exhibition match against Fortuna Düsseldorf at the Wanderers Grounds on July 28 at 4 p.m. Tickets for that game will go on sale to the general public on July 3.
“Teams have to have a balance. You can’t go crazy on one end ... I know the type of player that I’ll be looking for and the type of players that will blend into something,” Hart said.
“I have always told the coaches when I had provincial teams, when in doubt, select enthusiasm … Regardless of how talented a player is they have to bring their passion to the field and to the team.”
SOURCE: The Star Halifax