‘Stick With Us’: Miller Pleads For Patience Amid Tough Times For Valour FC
Canadian Premier League side Valour FC has never tasted postseason action. In five years, they’ve always finished in the bottom half of the league, with 2023 seeing them finish dead last, even below brand-new franchise Vancouver FC.
The disappointment on the pitch was reflected by dwindling attendance: after a strong inaugural season attendance of 5,335, they’ve since dipped down to 3,200 some five years on, with club boss Wade Miller having expressed his disappointment at what he believes are untenable numbers.
Suffice to say, the mood was somber when Valour’s campaign wrapped up: there are active rumours that Winnipeg Football Group are looking to sell, with some fans even wondering if Valour will be around come 2024.
Clubrunner Wade Miller assures fans that Valour will still be raring to go at IG Field next year, and that the WFP ownership organization will back its horse – though fans may need more proof in the pudding after a sense of apparent disinterest in 2023.
“We’re running it, and we’re going to find a way to make this work for our fans, for our players, and for this city,” Willer told the Winnipeg Free Press in a recent interview. “We love having Valour.”
“We see what’s happening with soccer in this country, and Valour needs to be in Winnipeg. We’re gonna work hard to make that happen.”
Still, the rumours of sale interest have loomed. Northern Tribune is aware of at least one ownership group who sought a valuation of Valour following the inaugural season – and those were the comparable ‘good days’ – with the club open to discussions back then, though the buyers eventually balked at the club’s valuation.
Wade says now that the organization will always look at any opportunity that presents itself – no matter the situation – and wouldn’t rule out the possibility of such still happening. When asked by the Winnipeg Free Press if they’d had more recent interest, however, he declined to comment.
For the present, Wade wants to stem the bleed and nurture Valour FC back to health.
“Stick with us and we will get this turned around,” he urged fans. “I think I have the history of doing that.”
Miller himself has been targeted by unhappy Valour fans aplenty, several of whom have opined that he needs to be removed from club operations if Valour is to see success.
“Well, I appreciate the passion. I appreciate what they bring to game days. There’s frustration, and there should be, so, I understand it,” offered the man himself.
With fans and pundits having already expressed a concern in a lack of investment, alarm bells also rang as we reported that the club’s high-performance program was quietly kicked to the curb earlier this year.
Miller told the Winnipeg Free Press that the club is looking at integrating itself to the Manitoba youth soccer community with a different inroad that involves local clubs and academies more symbiotically instead of Valour running a separate program.
“We think we can have a bigger impact on kids by working directly with those clubs and the academies,” Wade told the WFP, saying it allows Valour’s staff to work with them plenty of groups directly instead of being on their own.
As for what comes next in 2024? Valour won’t be going anywhere, and neither will Phillip Dos Santos: the club gave him a one-year contract extension to lock him in for 2024, with Miller quick to defend the decision.
“It’s been two years he’s had to take this over. He needs time to be able to do that. I know that’s not what some fans want to hear, but I’m a firm believer that if you get the right person, you give them the opportunity to make it happen,” he says.
The Valour boss clearly believes Dos Santos can take the organization in the right direction, despite the Winnipeg-based side being unsatisfied on their league placement ever since he took over from Rob Gale in 2021.
One of the big ticket items will be improved recruitment: expectations for 2023 were low before the season even kicked off after the prolific duo of William Akio and Moses Dyer weren’t replaced by equal-caliber signings, and that lack of goals ultimately cost the club a postseason berth.
Dos Santos said he is hopeful that Valour will add a more reliable scouting department to its budget, with many of his club’s signings proving to be flops. Their forward line additions of Anthony Novak, Jared Ulloa, Ahinga Selemani, and Jaime Siaj accounted for just two goals split between the four of them.
While Pacifique Niyongabire and Kian Williams looked decent in midfield, their influence was stymied by the collective troubles in the final third. If Dos Santos wants to remain in 2025, he’ll need access to players who can score some goals.
“I still have the energy, the passion, and the ambition to succeed with this club and that’s what I want to do,” the gaffer told WFP.
“For me, this is a normal process. It’s not something I fight with. I look at it with anticipation and motivation to bring results to this club, to bring playoff games to this club, to bring an MLS team and a Canadian Championship to this stadium, to win something. I think that’s what drives us and that’s how the approach needs to be.”
“I think we know where we stand. We know what needs to be done, and I approach it with anticipation and excitement,” concluded Dos Santos.
He and Miller are hoping the fans will stick with the club as they fight to right the proverbial ship in Winnipeg, lest things eventually go the way of the league’s last unsustainable club.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press