Ledgerwood Enjoying Time With Cavalry FC
Cavalry FC Captain Nik Ledgerwood re-signed with the Alberta-based side at the end of January, confirming that that the 36-year-old would remain with the club for its third year of Canadian Premier League action.
The captain has now made thirty appearances for the side, contributing four goals (one of which came in the league’s biggest win) and seeing the side make history as the first CPL team to defeat MLS opposition. While both of the club’s campaigns saw the side finish top of the regular season, the tail end of each campaign saw them finish without winning any titles.
Ledgerwood is eager to do what he can to help the club in the 2021 Canadian Premier League season, even stating that he’s got a few more years in him on the pitch, too:
I want to play as long as I can and I’m feeling right now that I’m still in very good shape, I still have that passion for the game, and in all honesty it wouldn’t surprise me if I continue playing for the next 2-3 years. I think the decision came because my family is here in Calgary, I have my roots here, and I enjoy the overall class of what Cavalry is from the ownership, the staff, and the team.Nik Ledgerwood
Last season saw Ledgerwood appear in seven matches for Cavalry FC, five of which came as starts. After scoring a goal in the club’s opening Group Stage match against Pacific FC, Ledgerwood picked up a knock and was forced to watch from the sidelines as the side lost back-to-back games against Halifax and Forge, narrowly missing out on the chance for a second CPL Final appearance amidst a multitude of squad injuries.
Had the season not been so compacted, Ledgerwood might have recovered in time to participate in those matches. The turf field made things a rough go, but the captain is confident that if the 2021 Canadian Premier League season can run at the regular length as the league hopes it can, he’ll be capable of being in the starting line-up every match.
At 36, his hunger for playing time clearly hasn’t diminished – though he recognizes that his minutes may need to be managed:
My ambition and expectation of myself is the same as it has been in the past, and that’s to continue to be the captain and have a leadership-type role on the field, and to do that is playing minutes. Obviously, there will come a time where we might need to manage minutes a little better, especially for back-to-back games.Nik Ledgerwood
Like many players in the Canadian Premier League, however, Ledgerwood finds himself in a position where it’s difficult to plan too far ahead: he re-signed with the Alberta-based side on a one year contract, which means anything could happen next year.
While it’d be easy for a captain to say he’d love to retire with his current club, Ledgerwood was open about the realities of professional football: while he’d like to see out his playing days here, it needs to make sense for both parties.
I would like to retire here. On the other side of that, soccer is a business. At the end of the day, you have to expect the unexpected sometimes. Since it is a business, I have a one year contract and I’ll fulfill my one year contract. Do I want to stay here? Yes, of course, but there’s more aspects to that in the game that I don’t know everybody on the outside world understands.Nik Ledgerwood
This offseason has already seen two team captains find themselves on the move: Dylan Carreiro decided to leave Valour FC to shift to a family focus in Toronto, while York United Captain Manny Aparicio has arrived as a midfield reinforcement out west with Pacific FC. Ledgerwood offers them as firm examples for the aforementioned realities of soccer as a business:
I’m sure if you would have asked them at the beginning of their careers in the CPL, they would’ve all said ‘I would love to stay at this team as long as I can. I’m at home.’, but there’s so many different aspects to it. At the end of the day I’m going to enjoy this year as much as I can, and we’ll see where everything falls.Nik Ledgerwood
The sentiment echoes that of rival side Forge FC’s Captain Kyle Bekker, who touched on the subject after re-signing with the hammers by stating that things can always change, and in football they can change quickly.
At 36, Ledgerwood now finds himself as the most veteran player in the Canadian Premier League, ahead of the expectedly-returning Jose Galan and Pacific FC Captain Marcel de Jong. While he’s got plenty of gas in the engine to keep going, he’s also ensuring that he’ll be well-prepared for life off the pitch, too.
Ledgerwood is in the midst of securing his Canada Soccer A License, which means he’ll be simultaneously keeping up with his studies while leading Cavalry FC throughout the 2021 Canadian Premier League season. He doesn’t have his post-playing career plans set in stone, recognizing that in the soccer world opportunities come and go in a flash. When that transition does come, he just wants to be as ready as he can be.
I wanted to make sure that the transition, when it does happen, will be very smooth, and I’m looking at all aspects of it. I’d love to stay in the game for as long as I can. I can’t see myself getting away from soccer in any aspect. I think the next career move for me will be one involved in soccer. If it is in Calgary in Alberta where I can help out where I’ve grown up and where I benefitted from, I’ll have that much more stronger of a tie to the community.Nik Ledgerwood
With over 370 professional appearances to his name, Ledgerwood has a lot of experience to offer. He first left to play abroad when Canada had its football hopes on the likes of Calgary Storm, the Toronto Lynx, the Whitecaps, and the Impact – something that he wasn’t fully convinced were sustainable at the time. Even when Major League Soccer added Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal as expansion sides, Ledgerwood believed it simply meant a domestic league would now need to survive without its three biggest markets, making it all the more unlikely.
While Ledgerwood came somewhat close to securing an MLS move, his eventual return to Canada came by way of FC Edmonton in the NASL, though he recalls that something just didn’t feel right about the league at the time, be it the lack of a professional feeling, the travel, or the setup. Not long after that, however, Tommy Wheeldon Jr. – who used to play alongside Nik during his early days developing in Canada – reached out and onboarded him with the eventual launch of Cavalry FC, with Ledgerwood joining several other eventual Cavalry FC players at the Calgary Foothills in the year prior.
Everything he told me was very positive: the ownership group, the stadium, the league. It was something that I could completely get behind, help support, and built. He had his vision of doing it, and to be fair to him he’s stuck to his vision and goals of having this team from Foothills and then moving over [to the CPL] and having a strong base of Alberta players that promote the soccer in the region here.Nik Ledgerwood
Ledgerwood is happy with what he’s seen from Tommy, stating that he ticks all the boxes of being a good coach in wanting to learn, adapting to the modern game, and surrounding himself with the right staff members in Martin Nash, Jordan Santiago, and Foothills Technical Director Leon Hapgood.
Tommy, for his part, finds himself in the midst of a squad rebuild after having released nine players with the returns of Niko Pasquotti and Oliver Minatel still uncertain following their long-term injuries at The Island Games. Ledgerwood’s centre midfield position is, however, one where there are ample high calibre choices for Tommy to pick from.
Beyond Ledgerwood, the gaffer can slot in Elliot Simmons, Elijah Adekugbe, and new intra-league addition Joseph Di Chiara in the middle of the park, with the former Nine Stripes midfielder arriving following a strong season at The Island Games. Ledgerwood, for his part, welcomes the strong competition.
At the end of the day, of course you’re fighting for minutes with guys who come in at the same position, but if he can raise the level of other players, he can raise my level and I’ll help raise his level. That’s what it’s all about when he’s coming to this team. We want players to come to this team to help win, and whatever the cause is I’m sure he’ll be doing his part.Nik Ledgerwood
The Cavalry Captain suggests we could see a lot of versatility in midfield, with the potential of he and Joe playing side-by-side as box-to-box midfielders, and with Elijah Adekugbe and Elliot Simmons offering four strong options who are all hungry for opportunity. In the end, he thinks a lot of it will depend on the cohesion and understanding between midfielders and whatever’s most suitable for what formation Tommy Wheeldon Jr. opts to play.
Whatever tactical decisions take place, Ledgerwood is hungry to get out and play in front of fans again. His time overseas in Germany had him playing in front of 10,000-15,000 fans regularly, and Spruce Meadows proved to be a solid home ground for attendance in the inaugural Canadian Premier League season, though that wasn’t an option last year.
All of the sudden the pandemic hits and you’re having a tournament in a bubble and there’s not a single soul in that stadium that’s clapping or cheering, really. It was so surreal. It didn’t even seem like it was a season, it felt like you were having a bunch of friendly games and it was on yourself to really get motivated and push the guys and create their own atmosphere within themselves. I’m really hopeful that this year we get some fans out to Spruce Meadows, because I know talking to the fans that they’re dying to get out there and see some live sports. I think people just want to get back to some sort of normality, and so do us as athletes.Nik Ledgerwood
While the full shape of the 2021 Canadian Premier League season remains to be confirmed, the league office is hoping that a full 28 game season can kick off on the Victoria Day Long Weekend with home markets and, hopefully, fans in attendance.
With Ledgerwood returning on a one year contract, he’d obviously love to hoist a North Star Shield in front of a community he has strong ties to. Whatever comes after that, he’ll be ready for, too.