Halifax Wanderers Share Massive Updates on 2020 Season (And Beyond)
Last night Halifax Wanderers president Derek Martin and head coach Stephen Hart held a public Q&A, and the results of the discussion have provided some great insight into both the east coast club’s plans for 2020 along with a good overview regarding general league timelines.
Without further ado, here’s a look at Derek Martin and Stephen Hart’s thoughts regarding several Canadian Premier League subjects. A special thanks to Denton Froese for recording these answers from the Q&A.
On Wanderers Grounds
The east coast club has consistently filled Wanderers Grounds to maximum capacity, giving the club one of the top CPL attendances. While the club had spoken earlier about potentially expanding the stadium mid-season, the current plan is much more small scale: they’re looking at creating a premium corner right by the supporters’ group, increasing the capacity by one or two hundred seats next year.
The Wanderers have already sold 90% of its season tickets for 2020, so fans should expect the wild ‘kitchen party’ atmosphere that the stadium is known for to remain a mainstay at Wanderers Ground.
Derek Martin also confirmed that the club had absolutely zero desire to move locations. He did make mention, however, that if discussions regarding a permanent stadium site with the city do come up, there’s no guarantee that a grass pitch would remain – though it’s something he’d absolutely fight for.
While many CPL fans have called for Wanderers Grounds to host a Canadian national team match, Martin says that the 6,200-capacity stadium isn’t quite up to the world-class standards such a venture requires, though he admitted that some international youth fixtures may be a possibility.
On Player Contracts
While York9 FC full-back Morey Doner has confirmed he’s signed a new contract with the Nine Stripes, the futures of other players around the league have been kept quiet for the time being. According to the Wanderers, players have until January 1st to sign a contract, so fans won’t hear any roster announcements until January 2.
This is the first time that CPL fans have heard a definite date of when roster updates should begin pouring out. Of course, players who don’t renew in the CPL and jump to another league will become more immediately apparent.
On New Kits
The Canadian Premier League has long since confirmed that the 2020 season will see clubs get new home and away kits, though the league has hasn’t said when these might be unveiled. For the inaugural season, kits weren’t revealed until the same month as the inaugural match. This time around, Derek Martin reveals that – at least in the case of the Wanderers – the new kits will be announced before Christmas.
The club president won’t reveal much else about the 2020 Halifax Wanderers kits, simply stating that the home and away kit share a theme. Macron will continue on as the league’s kit provider. It’s not known if clubs will wear home kits during away trips (and vice versa) in the fall season next year.
On The International Cap Rumours
This month, rumours broke out regarding a new league-mandated international player pool built by league officials in conjunction with a scouting agency. CPL clubs would only be permitted to sign international players from this pool, rather than scouting and signing international players independently. Another rumour dictates that an international player age limit may be put into place.
Fan reaction to the shared scouting pool has been poor, though Forge FC founder Bob Young defended the idea. Derek Martin chimed in too, stating that the league doesn’t force these ideas on teams, and that these ideas are a collaborative effort between the clubs to find a way to keep the league sustainable while still bringing in good international talent that may help clubs make a profit with player sales.
On A Youth Squad
The club is also looking to find a way for its youth players to earn meaningful minutes. Its three youngest players only accumulated a total of 477 minutes this season, with recently-capped Somalia international Abd-El-Aziz Yousef failing to make his debut for the side entirely. To that end, the ownership is looking at making a Wanderers U-23 squad and finding friendly competitions for them. It’s not clear how this would blend into the club’s CPL roster, and discussions about the idea are too early to have a set timeline for the venture.
On The Difficulty Recruiting Players
Back in July, Stephen Hart stated that it was difficult to convince players to move Halifax:
I’m going to be honest with you all, a lot of players didn’t want to come to Halifax. Aaron and them gave me some names and I spoke to them, and you know, they didn’t know about the city. We were always second and third choice.Stephen Hart
When fielding a question about getting more domestic players, the Wanderers coach stated that player attitudes towards Halifax are changing: more domestic players are showing interest, but he says they’re not going to come cheap. The Wanderers have made heavy use of Hart’s Trinidad and Tobago connections in the meantime, and even made a move to sign Kenwyne Jones before the inaugural season began.
Given how well the Cape Breton Capers performed in AUS action this season, it looks like the CPL-U SPORTS draft will likely be a crucial tool for Hart’s 2020 recruitment strategy.
On Players Adapting To Professional Life
One story that has been retold consistently across the Canadian Premier League is the difficulty many first-year professionals have had in adapting to life as a professional athlete in a league with so much away travel. Hart says this isn’t uncommon, even at top levels, though he states many players in the Wanderers squad adapted faster than he had expected.
Still, there are some young athletes that he said had difficulty adjusting to the tough travel schedule, neglected the importance of nutrition and sleep, and didn’t understand the benefits of paying attention to senior players. League commissioner David Clanachan expects the quality of play to go up in 2020 with many of 2019’s first-year professionals now knowing much more about this side of the game.
On Player Flexibility
The Halifax Wanderers struggled with injuries throughout the entire season, forcing Hart to play in a manner that he felt would ultimately best serve the team, though it wasn’t in the style he ideally wanted to play in. While he may not have had the opportunity to test the flexibility of players in different roles, he says developing this adaptability is necessary.
Should the Wanderers fare better in terms of injuries next season, players can expect some more dynamic performances from those on Hart’s 23-man roster akin to Chrisnovic N’sa, who was one of the few who were put through the paces of flexibility this year – in fact, Hart joked the only position he didn’t play was goalkeeper.
On A Women’s Team
With CPL Comissioner David Clanachan recently stating that progress for a WCPL was further along than he expected, it only makes sense that questions about a potential Women’s Team for the east coast club arised. Martin said he’d love to see a Wanderers Womens Team and that discussions are taking place, but the men’s league has to take root first.
Clanachan had previously suggested that a Women’s CPL would use the existing League1 Ontario Women’s league as a jumping off point, which would greatly help reduce travel costs. Given that Clanachan couldn’t fairly offer any timeline for potential Ontario-based professional women’s clubs, there’s no telling how far off a Halifax-based professional women’s team may be.
The hot topic ahead of 2020 certainly appears to be expansion: the fans are hungry for it, with David Clanachan promising to discuss at least three potential expansion sites in the month or so. With expansion bids in Quebec City, Saskatoon, and Montreal all looking more likely for 2021 than next year, however, the CPL may soldier on with the same seven clubs next season.
The firing of Ottawa Fury head coach Nikola Popovic has some fans speculating that the Fury is making moves ahead of a jump to CPL and is, thus, reducing coach costs – though given that the CPL has stated that it would be flexible in league rules to ease a potential transition, Popovic’s dismissal is not fully indicative of any such transition.
Derek Martin guessed that fans would hear about expansion teams soon, with the caveat that they’d all be slated for 2021. On the bright side, says Derek, giving these clubs a year of preparation time ought to help them avoid the growing pains felt by the original seven.
On League Transparency
The Canadian Premier League doesn’t release (or allow the release) of any player contracts or salaries, with injury information also being hard to come by. Martin says that while the Wanderers have never tried to hide any injuries, the club isn’t always asked. He says that when the CPL becomes more ‘top of mind’ for the likes of TSN and CBC Sports, it would make sense to become more forthcoming about such information.
Still, Martin does agree that the league ought to do a better job of getting ahead of rumours like the aforementioned international player age limit. The league still has yet to comment on the rumours.
All-told, the discussions between Derek Martin and Stephen Hart proven to be quite insightful: there are some big plans for 2020 and beyond, and it was great to hear more information about the goings-on of the league in general.
The inaugural Canadian Premier League season is due to wrap up this Saturday via the second leg of the CPL finals between Cavalry FC and Forge FC. The match will be streamed live on OneSoccer, with CBC Sports airing it through a tape delay.
Source: Privateers 1882 (Via Twitter)