Sunday, February 10, 2002

Three players on overseas trials


VAUGHAN—London City general manager Harry Gauss is all smiles these days. Perhaps it's the holiday season, or because he thinks he has the best pro team in Canada.

But City is not the best team in Canada—in fact the team from southwestern Ontario finished bottom of 12 in the 2001 CPSL final standings; they conceded the most goals in league and cup play and finished nowhere in the OZ Optics League Cup and Rogers Cup competitions.

But London City may well be the best pro team when it comes to giving good young players a chance at the big time. And that, everyone is saying, must be a major role for all professional soccer teams in this country if we are to become a contender on the world stage.

There are now three players from the City squad on trial with overseas clubs—all part of a strong player development program for which London City is quickly gaining an enviable reputation.

Scott Mueller, a 24 year old goalkeeper is with Scottish First Division side St. Mirren, while Tyler Hemming, 16, a defender and Cameron Medwin, 19, a midfielder, are with Grimsby Town in the English First Division.

"But while we are doing a big job on the player development side of the organization, we must get back to winning which is still very much a part of the London City culture because that's the name of the game and we must instill in young players the need for a fighting spirit—that desire to win," explained Gauss while talking about his young players recently.

"To be honest, we were caught a bit by surprise in doing so badly in the league—teams in the CPSL are better today and the improvement this year was much greater than we bargained for."

Not surprisingly, London City has the youngest squad in the CPSL with 15 of the 25 players on the books for the upcoming season all born in the 80s. The average age of players in the CPSL is 25. At 16, Hemming is the youngest CPSL player and was recently selected by Ontario head coach Jim Cannovan for some tough games against older, more seasoned players at the full-size indoor field at the Soccer Centre in Vaughan.

"I obviously think Jim is right in his approach, that most young players who show great promise accelerate their development playing against older players in a professional environment like the CPSL," said Gauss.

Frantz Simon, the recently appointed director of player development for the Ontario Soccer Association and himself a former pro with the Toronto Blizzard of the NASL agrees. "I'm aware of Tyler Hemming and I can relate to what he is going through having been a very young player with a pro team myself," he said.

Scottish-born Tony Taylor, the former coach of Canada's under 17 squad is one of the best Canadian examples of a player who mixed it up with the big boys when he was one of a select few to sign pro forms at 16 in Britain and eventually became a hit with Crystal Palace, one of England's top clubs of the day.

London City is determined to get back to winning. "While our priorities have not changed much and we will continue to focus on developing young players, we have set our sights on a marked reduction of the goals against and our aim in 2002 is to make the playoffs," said Gauss while talking about the upcoming season.

It's season number 30 since London City was launched on St. Valentine's Day, 1973.


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