SMR Interview Series: Carl Haworth, Forward

carl-haworth-2014-spring_1e7j52pt2xfnk1etbj2b66vam8The 2015 NASL season is now weeks away and we couldn’t be more excited! We had such a ground breaking year last season and we truly enjoyed supporting the Fury and getting to know the team. We’ve shared some stories of the players with you last year and we are going to continue this season. Now we get to know a bit more about forward Carl Haworth.

Tell me about where you grew up.
Well I was born in England and all of my family is English but we moved over to Canada when I was 1 year old. Moved to Ajax, it’s just outside of Toronto, we lived there for about a year. And then we moved north to Barrie Ontario where I spent sort of the majority of my life. Grew up there, playing soccer, my dad was my coach growing up, I went to school there and basically lived there until I was about 18 years old when I went away to school at Niagra University.

When did you start playing soccer?
I started playing young, I mean as soon as I could walk I was kicking a ball around. Soccer was a huge huge thing for my family, obviously being English, it’s the main sport there. And then probably signed up for my first team when I was about 4 years old. Just playing, I don’t know, once a week. Just small stuff. Not really sure how serious it was but that was probably my first official team.

And you said your dad was your coach?
Yeah, so my first two years of house league, he didn’t coach. And then after that he was my coach all the way up until I was 18 years old.

Did he push you in that direction or did it kind of happen naturally?
I guess it was pretty natural just cause soccer was always around while I was growing up. I just have one sister. So it’s my mom and my dad, me and my sister.
We were always watching the Premier League on the weekends. Everton was my team, [my dad] was a season ticket holder there, so it was just, sort of my culture in our family. So it was just a natural transition to my playing soccer.

At what point did you decide you wanted to pursue soccer as a career and start being a bit more serious about it?
I think I was about 16 years old when we had a scout from American universities come down to one of our soccer tournaments and he showed interest in a few of our players. That was when I first sort of realized that this was something that I could potentially do. Unfortunately I didn’t get any offers early on. I did an extra year in high school and then really sort of pushed the envelope and was contacting schools in the States to try and pursue it and it just worked out well that I got an offer to Niagara University in New York and I guess that was that!

So playing at Niagara University, how did that develop you as a player?
It was really good. My coach there, Dermot McGrane, another English fellow, he saw potential in me right away and made me part of the plans of the program. I was pretty integral to his team and he made that very clear at the start. So I immediately knew my role and where he thought that I could go. So he put a lot of trust in me and he pushed me every single day to get me to where I was and made me captain my second year and I had a leadership role from then on. And he led me to playing PDL in the summers, which I wasn’t even aware of. I didn’t know that there was that level like that to play at in the summer so that was huge for me and that really got me playing throughout the whole year, not just during the school season so that was huge.

And is that how you got to Forest City in London?
Yeah. So, one of the guys I played with, he got in contact with the coach there in London and then the coach recognized my name because we had played against each other growing up for a number of years. My dad and him actually got quite close and were pretty friendly just from speaking at games when we were growing up. So he contacted me and I was there for 4 years in the end, all through my university career.

I’ve heard that Forest City are quite well supported. What was the atmosphere like playing there?
It was fantastic! Their home ground, it’s a secluded area sort of down in a little valley with trees surrounding 3 sides of it. And there are huge stands all along the other side. Our home opener my first year, I think we had something like 3800 people come out. And for me, playing in front of that many people at just an amature level, it was pretty special. We averaged just around 2000 fans every game. And they were fans that weren’t just there to watch, they were there to be engaged and you’d hear them the whole time, always holding up their scarves. Sort of what the Bytowne Boys and Stony Monday Riot and the Ultras are doing, so it was a very similar atmosphere to the supporters groups and stuff that we have now.

You were pretty prolific on that team. Did that open up any other opportunities for you?
Yeah, actually. Well, my first year I didn’t do too well, it was sort of a new thing to me. But my second and third year, I did really well, not only at PDL, but in my school year and that opened up. I got calls for the Canadian University team, so I ended up going to China in 2011 for the World University Games. So that was something that, again, I didn’t really know about going into university but the coach sort of got people out to watch without me knowing and that just happened. And then eventually I got calls from the Canadian U23 team and that eventually lead to me going into Olympic qualifying.

And U23 National Team is huge! Describe that experience.
Yeah, that was fantastic! I got called into a couple of camps early on the year before. And that was a new experience for me. The training was at a higher level than what I was used to. I enjoyed it. Playing with players of that caliber just made me a better player overall. And the coaching there was fantastic. And I was just lucky enough to keep getting called back to camps. And then I got called into the 30 man preliminary pre tournament roster for a camp for the tournament, and ended up making the final cut and got to go to Olympic qualifying. We played Cuba, El Salvador and the US in the group stage and then eventually lost out to Mexico in the semi final. And they went on to win the Olympics in the end. So it was quite the experience!

Did you play with any of your current teammates on that team?
Yeah, quite a few of us actually! It was myself, Drew Beckie was there, Phil Davies, and Andres Fresenga was there too so there was a few of us. And when we all found out we were coming here to Ottawa it was pretty exciting!

So then in 2012, you were drafted to the Montreal Impact. Can you describe your experience with that team.
Yeah, it was pretty exciting. I mean, on the actual supplemental draft day I was in my coach’s office at school and we were just listening to it and watching the online feed. I saw my name go up and heard it and then heard from my agent right away. And I spoke to the coaches, it was Jessie Marsh at the time, and he called me 2 hours or so after the draft just to speak to me about coming in to train. I still had about 4 months left at school so the way we worked it out was I would go in during spring break, any time we had a long weekend, or a couple of weeks off of school. I would go in and train with the team. And I could finish my studies as well. So at the time I graduated I went back for another 2-week spell and then unfortunately it just didn’t work out and they released me. But it was still a fantastic experience. Again, playing with even higher caliber players than I was used to was fantastic and I learned a lot.

And then you made your way to Ottawa and started playing for the Fury in the PDL right? What contributed to your decision to come to Ottawa?
Yes. So after I got released from Montreal I was a little, I mean sort of depressed. It was a bummer but I went back and finished the season at London that year and we actually won the PDL, which was pretty cool! And then I just went back home for the winter months and then started looking at potential trials for the spring. I went down to Harrisburg City Islanders in the USL for a trial that March and after 3 days I was released. And then the same thing. I was a little depressed and thought “You know maybe this isn’t gonna work out for me.” And then I get a call from the Ottawa PDL coaches and they were really keen to bring me in for the season. That was 2013. So I thought, “You know what, I’ll give this one more shot and I know the NASL team’s coming the following year. This could be good exposure for me.” So I let them convince me to come. I played the summer here, had a fantastic year and I was lucky to have seen Marc Dos Santos. He came in July, cuz we had about a month / month and a half left of the season. He came out and saw a few games and he came to quite a few practices. And he just approached me after the season and offered me a spot and that’s how it happened! I fell in love with the city and the fans and everything about it. Everything that Marc said was checking all the boxes so I was excited when I spoke to him. It was an easy decision for me!

I know you guys just started training but how do you see yourself developing as a player coming off of last season into this season?
I’m really excited for this year. Last year was a difficult year but I thought it was still successful in a way. I was adapting to a new level of play, which was huge to adapt to a professional level. That was one thing, but then also adapting to sort of a new position. I was used to playing up front through the middle as a forward, but obviously with the team that we had and the players, Marc found it more suitable for me to play out on the wing. I had played there in the past, it just wasn’t something that I was necessarily used to, but I was learning every day. I learned a lot and I’m just looking forward to this season and what our team’s going to accomplish.

What are your expectations for the team this year?
Definitely an improvement on last year. A big thing for us is we want to do well in the Amway Championship. Obviously losing out to Edmonton last year, we wanted the opportunity to play against an MLS team, so that’s a big thing for us. And the playoffs is sort of what we see. Our team is definitely capable of achieving good things and if we just stick to our game and play the way that we know we can, the results will come and I can easily see us being in the top 4 and then challenging for that top spot.

How do you see the sport growing in Canada?
Oh, it’s huge! It’s been exponential recently and even seeing the Women’s World cup being here this year, it’s massive. The outreach that we see is huge. The growth is exponential. When I started playing there wasn’t the talk of you know going away, getting scholarships and getting in to professional teams. But now having 5 professional teams in Canada, it’s massive for the youth in the country to see. It’s something that they can look towards and they can have idols and they can have teams that they support growing up in their own country. That’s massive, massive for the development. It’s only going to get bigger and spread wider across the country and it’s really exciting to see from the inside. Being on a Canadian team seeing the support and the fans that we’re generating, it’s quite special.

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