London Soccer Academy Visits England
Mariners Net talked to the Club's Canadian visitors today.
The visitors - from London - are led by Cam Vassallo, the Director of the football academy, and Jurek Gebczynski the coach, who also coaches the semi-pro senior side called London City.
Jurek was impressed by the atmosphere at Blundell Park. "It's a professional environment," he says. "Everyone here is aiming to be professional about soccer."
"Back in Canada we don't have a large stadium like this, and we don't train every day."
He explained that in Europe football was the number one sports, but in Canada it has to compete with the established sports of ice hockey, baseball and basketball. Football is not a great professional sport there but "it's seen as a great recreational sport, not something to pursue as a career, so the programme for soccer is not as advanced as it is for the other sports."
However, there are now 800,000 registered players in the country, which is twice as many as there were ten years ago.
Ian Knight explained, "The Canadian League is semi-professional - it's about the standard of our own Conference League."
Cam Vassallo, the Director of the Football Academy, said, "Canadian boys dream of playing football in England. It's the place to go to be at the top."
"Competition is getting better," said Jurek, "and there are a number of talented players, but they're not close to a professional environment like this," he added indicating the whole of the Grimsby Town set-up.
Town's youth policy is geared up to developing players. This is not apparently so in many Canadian teams. "In Canada the whole emphasis at youth level is short term - on winning the next game, rather than looking further ahead."
Jurek knows that some of the lads that have come across from Canada for ten days will have games with Town's youngsters and find it tough. He cannot do everything in Canada that Grimsby Town can do here, because he takes the 'elite' team, and that means he is taking youngsters from several clubs, so things such as team structure and tactics on the pitch have to go by the board.
"That's what one of the things we'll be doing while we're over he," says Jurek enthusiastically. "Football can be a serious way of living, and the boys need to see that in practice."
"Our dream is to develop boys," says the Canadian coach. And then he went on to talk about Tyler Hemming, one of the brightest prospects who has already been to Blundell Park for assessment.
"Tyler was missed by the bigger Canadian clubs because he was from outside of the big cities. But when he did sign as a professional, he became the youngest ever in Canada!"
Clearly, Tyler Hemming is keen to break into English football, and he will get his opportunity to convince the Mariners that he is their man early in the New Year.