In our new column, HFX Wanderers FC Head Coach Stephen Hart takes us behind the scenes at the club as he begins to build a team for the Canadian Premier League.
You are building a team from scratch which means trying to sign a squad of 23 players. Where do you start with a task like that?
There are certain fundamentals to building a team. Obviously the spine of the team is a big focus for me. The goalkeeping position is very important. The centre back position is where you need someone with organizational experience because so much of defending is about communication. A strong central midfielder is a key part of any team and a striker who can score goals to finish off everything that you do. That’s how you layout your shopping list.
How challenging is it trying to find the pieces to this shopping list?
It’s challenging but exciting at the same time. How many people get an opportunity to build team from scratch? Sometimes you come into a team and the team has its own identity but here we’re creating a team and a club that we want to be identified with playing in a certain manner. So here we’re setting the trend for that. We’re establishing our team and will be indoctrinating the players into the expectations of the club and the way they approach the game.
What kind of team identity are you trying to create for the Wanderers?
I am trying to go after players that play in a certain manner and have a certain mentality. Their attitude to training is critical. For me, everything revolves around training because if you get it wrong in training you won’t get it right on game day, I don’t care who you are. I’m speaking to a lot of players’ agents. I’ve had about four or five on the phone today and it’s not even noon yet. But you don’t know the attitude of the players from those conversations, so I like to look at performances in games. I’ve been looking at a lot of game footage on video. I want characters who will represent the club well on and off the pitch.
It sounds like you are already trying to sign players! Are you?
I have had lots of discussions with players and we have made some verbal agreements. Some of those agreements are for players we would like to sign to contracts and others are for players we want to bring into a trial process. I think the fans could be excited by some of these players. But it’s still very early and those verbal agreements could mean very little as those players are still being shopped around and could end up elsewhere. We won’t be able to actually sign players until January and I want to have at least half the squad signed by the middle of February.
What are the other big priorities for you in building this first Wanderers team?
Making sure I have staff alongside me. You need an assistant. You want someone who does not always agree with everything you do. Someone who has a different opinion and approach. I don’t want someone just to say yes. You also need someone who works with the goalkeepers because they’re a big part of the team but require specialist training. The equipment manager is extremely important for any club and I will also need someone who can handle the logistics of the team doing things like booking flights, hotels and making sure things happen smoothly off the pitch. Finding the right people for these positions at the club is going to be as important as finding the right players for the Wanderers.
Stephen Hart is the Head Coach and General Manager of HFX Wanderers FC
You can follow him on twitter @WatchfulEye64