By RON FANFAIR
Being a leader is a privilege and honour that most people covet. Stephen Hart is no different. The interim Canadian soccer coach has indicated that he would certainly consider doing the job full-time if the conditions are right.
“I would like to have an opportunity to sit down and speak to the players on a one-on-one basis and see how they feel,” said Hart, who is the Canadian Soccer Association’s technical director. “A lot of things will go in before a final decision is made if I throw my name into the hat.”
Hart has had success with the national men’s team in the past. In his first spell as interim coach, he led Canada to the semi-finals of the 2007 Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Associations of Football’s (CONCACAF) Gold Cup tournament. He has also coached the Under-17 side and served as an assistant to Dale Mitchell who was relieved of his duties last March.
He begins his second stint as interim coach on Saturday in a friendly international against Cyprus in Larnaca with a squad comprising mainly European-based players. No Major League Soccer (MLS) representatives were selected because the majority of players have club commitments.
The side includes strikers Simeon Jackson and Tosaint Ricketts who played basketball and ran track, winning a number of city and provincial titles, and mid-field players Julian DeGuzman and Jaime Peters who play in Spain and England respectively.
“I think this is a good opportunity for me to see some players that we have not seen before in international competition,” said Hart who came to Canada from Trinidad & Tobago in 1980 to pursue a soccer scholarship at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax where he now lives. “We had to give some young players a chance anyhow and I think this is the right time.”
Saturday’s friendly international is Canada’s only match before the Gold Cup tournament in July and Hart does not appear to be optimistic that the team will attain the same level of success it achieved two years ago in the biennial regional fixture.
“Right now, it does not look like we will be at full strength because there are some players with injuries that will prevent them from playing,” he said. “We are also going into the Gold Cup competition under completely different circumstances. Last time there was energy and the players knew that World Cup qualifiers were coming around.
“My approach is that we are going there to compete and do the best we can though we don’t have a lot of preparation time. Everybody knows that. That is no secret. This, however, will be a great opportunity for our young players to play in a couple of international games and prove themselves. It’s about getting international experience.”
Canada meets Jamaica in its first Gold Cup contest in California on July 3. The team faces El Salvador four days later in Ohio before heading to Miami for its final first round game against Costa Rica on July 10.