‘Endless Potential’: Gheisar Preparing For Step Up To CPL
The opening fixtures of the Canadian Premier League have been released and the Canadian Championship draw has been made. Football is returning soon with the CPL going into its fifth year and Patrice Gheisar entering his debut season at the pro level.
Gheisar has been announced as the new Head Coach at Halifax Wanderers FC. The Nova Scotian side are looking to find some success after struggling since being one of the founding members of the league.
Halifax were the lowest scorers last season with 24 goals in 28 games and finished seventh. For Gheisar, the opportunity was one he has worked hard for and the opportunity to move into the CPL.
“I thought it was one of the attractive jobs in the country in terms of its fanbase, and there has been a football culture set. There is endless potential to do this from grassroots all the way up to the top – and the fact they are so hungry to win but haven’t hit that success.“
“For me it’s great, but even more important for my colleagues. I don’t think last year I’d have a 1% chance that this would happen for me, but I feel I have earnt it. I have been through the grind. For 15 years, I’ve put in the work, and I hope my story will motivate other coaches to say ‘you know what? Canadian coaches will be given a chance, work hard and you will be noticed’.“
Having a blank canvas in terms of the players on the roster, the rebuild began immediately. Gheisar was delighted to have the opportunity to put his stamp on the side and create the team he felt could improve on 2022.
“That was probably one of the most appealing things because you are always worried that when you inherit a team you can be working with guys you aren’t crazy about. The fact that you get the pieces that you want makes it a lot easier to take your journey to the next step.“
Things are different in the CPL from League1 Ontario. Gheisar and his team are adapting to their new surroundings and how to build a team. They have identified who they wanted to keep from last season as well as recruited some players from their former side, Vaughan Azzuri like last years L1O MVP Massimo Ferrin.
For Gheisar and his team, they have had to get used to recruiting players in a different way.
“The game is always the same, but now the little bit different as we don’t get the chance to speak with the players as much because the agents are involved here.“
As preseason begins, players will be learning the way in which Gheisar sets his team out. Being the league’s lowest scorers last year, supporters will be eagerly anticipating the change of the pace under Gheisar. His Vaughan Azzurri side played attacking and exciting football, and Wanderers fans will hope to have more to chear about this season than they have previously.
“I say this as a joke, but I actually really mean it: I don’t know another way to coach. It’s all I have ever done. It’s not that I just say that worked that last year. If you don’t enjoy what you do, then what are you doing it for. I don’t want to play kick and run to win, I want to win, work hard, be dominant and play attacking football.“
Speaking with Gheisar, it is clear that he saw potential in the players and the club. Halifax only conceded 38 goals, which was only five more than Cavalry FC and Pacific FC who finished third and fourth.
“You watch their games they were involved in all of them. They were never blown away. The trouble is the two curses. The one where you make mistakes and you give up goals, and the one where you miss chances. You can live with one of them happening but not both and that was the case here [Last Year]. We have a lot of great players, now we have added some new players, I think we have a really strong core.“
With preseason training set to commence soon, Gheisar is preparing his plans and getting ready for the opening weekend of the season. A double header with Atletico Ottawa in league and cup play awaits Halifax.
“We haven’t started [preparing for specific games] as we have all the hurdles of new players, new staff, new team and we are taking our time to build things slowly, our culture and identity. We have a lot of work to do before the start of the season.”
“We are trying to get to know the players and them to know us. If we try to start too high we will experience a decline, we want to slowly grow. Our best game won’t be the Ottawa game, we want to be hitting our stride and getting better and better throughout the year to qualify for the playoffs.”
The Canadian Championship is set to include the likes of FC Laval, TSS Rovers and Gheisar’s former side Vaughan Azzurri. Building the competition and increasing the number of clubs competing at a professional level is increased. For Gheisar, the increase in professional clubs is vital for the sport in Canada for its future as well as other reasons:
“It’s really important because we still have some of our players going to Europe at a young age and getting stranded. So having more teams means more jobs for Canadian players, and less travel for us. The travel here is crazy because we only have eight teams, we go to BC I think four times and that’s not an easy trip for Halifax. Once there’s better divisional realignment with more teams, I think things will improve and keep going. We need to create more jobs and more teams because there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t see a good young player, but I only have 23 jobs I can provide for players.“
“We want to get our players excited about doing something different and be consistent. That’s the basic formula. I think every kid growing up dreams of scoring a goal or making a pass, not necessarily blocking a shot, and defending in a low block. So, we are going to try and excite our fans and players with the style and identity we have.“
There is a lot to be excited about for a coach making the step up into CPL. Many coaches across the country will be wishing him luck as he steps out as a role model for many looking to create their careers.
For Patrice Gheisar, he and his team will be working hard towards creating an attacking and exciting style of play to entertain supporters as well as get points on the board.
Saturday, April 15 will see Halifax Wanderers travel to play Atletico Ottawa, last season’s regular season winners and playoff runners-up, for their opening game of the season and the beginning of Gheisar’s reign in CPL.