This is the first in a two-part series. Check back for part two next week.
As far as performance markers go, the fact that the new look York9 FC are in the mix in the Football Manager 2020 simulation on the Canadian Premier League’s website may have provided solace for some supporters contemplating what could have been under different circumstances, while waiting patiently for the return to play.
Now, with the possibility of some real soccer on the horizon at The Island Games, fans of the Nine Stripes can look forward to having something more than just their position in the virtual power rankings to cheer in the weeks ahead.
Six months into his role as managing consultant at York9 FC, Angus McNab is as excited as anyone at the possibility of seeing the team finally kick a ball competitively and the spotlight shifting onto the players.
“It’s been a cycle of conversations with staff, supporters, sponsors, players and their agents, owners, and jumping on podcasts in between,” he summarized of his time so far. “But that would have been the process regardless of what’s happened. It’s just been largely conducted on video calls rather than in person.
“Fortunately, we’re approaching a point where we can make the best of the situation we’ve found ourselves in, and we will be able to put some of our planning to the test and see how our response to the feedback shapes up.
“We won’t be tackling everything when we return to competitive play, far from it, but for everyone who has worked so hard behind the scenes, it’s the start of the next chapter.”
In the first of a two-part interview with McNab on york9fc.canpl.ca – where we address nine topics that matter to you – we reflect on the year so far and get an update on how everything is progressing:
What have you made of the response to the Health Care Hero initiative since you launched in April?
AM: “We’ve been really pleased with the way it has been embraced. It’s hard to believe it was three months ago that we announced the idea. Our aim was to do what we could to ensure our community stayed strong and united ahead of what everyone anticipated would be a challenging time.
“The patch has proved a popular addition to jerseys and the Macron training kit. We’re also grateful to everyone who has bought a mask and played their part. I feel very privileged to be part of a club that takes community, and what it means to be a community, so seriously.”
How have plans for the return to competitive play evolved and how long has it taken to get to this stage?
AM: “The process has been an evolving conversation for several weeks. The ownership/leadership groups of the respective clubs have been in constant contact with David Clanachan [CPL Commissioner], Scott Mitchell [CPL CEO] and the league’s senior management as we evaluated all of the permutations for a return to play.
“The decision we have arrived at took some time, but I’m very proud that we had the courage and discipline to evaluate the situation, listen to experts and place player, coach and employee safety before everything else. I just can’t wait to get started now.”
Do you anticipate any further tweaks to the roster?
AM: “Unfortunately, it’s been a consequence of the pandemic that we’ve had to play with the roster a little bit. The whole thing has been a moving goal in the current climate when it comes to doing right by the players because circumstances have changed for all of us, some more than others.
“We’re sorry that we won’t see Adrián Ugarriza and Jacó pull on a York9 shirt, but they will remain on our radar. We completely understand and respect where Colm Vance found himself, and in deciding it was the right time to focus on his career in medicine, that’s presented an opportunity for Ezequiel Carrasco.”
When are the final international signings due to arrive in Canada?
AM: “A large part of my day is spent working with our immigration attorney on the situation regarding the remaining squad members arriving in Canada. When I have news on this, our fans will be informed straight away.”
Getting all of the available players together on the same field was a significant moment for everyone involved after lockdown, but how much progress has been made in the time so far? How equipped will they be for The Island Games tournament?
AM: “We’ll be ready. It’s been a challenge preparing for a date that is an unknown but that’s the same for everyone. We currently have 21 guys in the country training together, and no injury concerns. I’ve every confidence in the work the squad has done during the early stages of the lockdown to maintain a base level from our Florida training camp in March.
“The work since has progressively – physically and tactically – built the players up to the point where Jimmy and his team will be able to step it up to the desired level.
“The data we get from STATSports has really helped in managing load and tracking our progress. We’ve seen from other countries returning to play that it isn’t necessarily the fitness that is the issue, it’s just getting back to a level of technical sharpness the players are used to. That will come with time.”