Posted on: Thursday, February 12, 2009
It is difficult to believe it has already been over two years since Alex Campbell applied for a franchise in the United Soccer Leagues.
With a new year upon us, it offers an opportunity to let our fans know what the club has accomplished behind the scenes. Let's take a look back before we look ahead to our first season in the United Soccer Leagues PDL.
Coaching Staff: The first order of business was to hire a coaching staff. After two months of interviews, and more than ten candidates, former Canadian International, Captain and interim Manager, Colin Miller was selected as the Highlanders first Head Coach. He began his professional playing career as an 18 year old, joining the Toronto Blizzard of the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1982. After playing 23 games over three seasons with the Blizzard, Miller joined Scottish giants Rangers, where he spent the 1984-85 and 1985-86 seasons. He also had spells at Doncaster Rovers, St Johnstone, Hamilton Academical, Heart of Midlothian, Dunfermline Athletic, Ayr United and a time as player-manager at Hamilton.
Steve Simonson was named Assistant Coach and Director of Youth Development. Simonson was a staff coach for the British Columbia Soccer Association from 1997 – 2001, as well as Assistant Coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps Women’s W-League team in 2001 – 2003 as well as 2005 – 2007.
Dave Dew was signed added to the Highlanders staff in the summer of 2008 as First Team Assistant Coach. He most recently served from 2001 - 2003 as the Head Coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps professional women's team (W-League) and as a Canadian National Women's Program staff coach. He has represented Canada as Assistant Coach of the Canadian Women's World Cup Team at the 1995 Women's World Cup.
Bob Stankov, Highlanders FC Goalkeeping Coach, joined the organization in the summer of 2008. Stankov has worked with Shel Brodsgaard, former Canadian National Team Goalkeeper Coach, since 1998 as a staff coach of the Island Keeper Clinic. Stankov has also served four seasons (2003-08) as goalkeeper coach for University of Victoria Women's soccer team. Currently he acts as the Head Goalkeeping Coach for Reynold's Secondary School Center For Soccer Excellence, as well as the Lower Island Soccer Association (2003-Present).
Logo Change: Originally our colors were blue, green and silver. The logo itself missed the mark with fans and soccer traditionalists. After two months of "test marketing", the decision was made to rebrand the club. Our merchandise sponsor, Team Sales, created a new look that we are very proud of, and that has been very popular with our supporters. The Highlanders are very grateful to Team Sales owner Keith Bridge and artist Paul Sheppard for capturing the imagination of our new identity.
Identifying Players: Spring 2008 marked the clubs first open trial. These trials began the long process of identifying players that will be invited to our first Spring Training Camp, scheduled for April 2009. The open trial met all expectations and more. Over 80 young footballers, from as far away as Prince Edward Island and Washington State, attended the assessments. From there, a summer development pool was organized with a list of 42 players vying for a spot on the first and reserve teams. The summer development pool offered training sessions twice a week under the watchful eyes of the Highlanders coaching staff.
In August, the club appointed Steve Simonson to work in conjunction with the Lower Island Soccer Association (LISA) as the Head Coach of the U18 Metro team. In his role, Steve has been afforded the opportunity to work consistently with a set of young players in the region hoping for the opportunity to move up to our Reserve Team program. In Autumn, the club initiated Scouting & Identification Camps where Simonson, Dew and Stankov had the opportunity to look at another 120 + young players from ages 16 through 25.
Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence: To further enhance the training experience for our players, the club entered into a partnership with the newly opened Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence (PISE). Located at the Interurban Campus of Camosun College, the institute became the Highlanders official training facility. In addition to an all weather training facility, named the Alex Campbell Field, the institute offers elite athletic therapy, fitness and rehab to ensure our athletes are well prepared and cared for, on and off the field.
Original 7: The real sign that the first team has begun to take shape came in early December. It was then that the club announced their first player signings. These original seven were all Island players. We felt it was important to offer local athletes the opportunity in our squad, whilst understanding that future signings may come from abroad.
Our first signing, although announced later than the others, was former Victoria United and Gorge FC captain, Robbie Veenhof. Named British Columbia Senior Player of the Year in 2008, Veenhof provides tremendouse leadership qualities and poise from the backline. In addition, Victoria United and Gorge FC players Paul Van den Boomen and Patrick Gawrys were signed, alongside University of Victoria Vikes Dan Kilpatrick and Cole McFarlane. Furthermore, former Victoria United and Bays United player Craig Robertson signed, and rounding out the Original Seven was former Charleston Battery (USL-1) Jordie Hughes.
Charitable Support: Off the field, the Highlanders value the importance of participating in community initiatives and are pleased to support a variety of events and organizations. The club is proud to support charitable organizations like MS KICK FOR THE CURE, OPPORTUNITAS AEQUA and a new organization called the FRIENDS OF THE HIGHLANDERS. Our club also sponsored and supported Victoria United of the Pacific Coast Soccer League during the spring and summer and intend to continue that support going forward. In addition, through LISA, our club has supported many youth tournaments, jamborees and festivals.
Marketing Initiatives: Under the Marketing banner, the club has been very busy getting the name and brand out to the passionate soccer world on the island. Our new line of merchandise that hit retail outlets in time for Christmas shoppers has been a very exciting addition for the club. Fans can find official jerseys, t-shirts, toques, coffee mugs, license plate holders and other Highlander merchandise at SoccerWorld, Spank-It/All Sports and the Highlander’s office at Colwood Corners. Now that the 2009 PDL Schedule is official, our season ticket and advertising campaign will hit the general public and ensure that every soccer and sport enthusiast will have an opportunity to take in a game, or more.
City Centre Stadium: Fans will be treated to the opportunity of viewing a soccer match at our new City Center Stadium in Langford. Choices include general admission, club-seating and private corporate boxes. Something new for local soccer fans will be our BRAVEHEART SECTION for those football fanatics over the age of 19. The club is also setting up plans for youth and group organizations to raise funds through group sales of Highlander season ticket packages.
Schedule: The team is excited to open their inaugural season at home with the team our Head Coach last coached in the PDL, the Abbotsford Mariners. At the other end of the great home schedule is our season close-out match up at home versus our new rival, the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency team. To supplement the very competitive PDL season, the club will host exhibition and friendly matches during their first season.
Professional Affiliations: The team is currently in discussions with a number of Professional Clubs from North America and Europe regarding affiliation. These relationships will not only enhance the opportunities for Highlander players to be identified, trained and possibly recruited to club teams from the MLS, USL, SPL, EPL and others, but will also create friendly exhibition match opportunities with these teams. You can follow all the news and action of the Highlanders through our exciting and interactive website: www.victoriahighlandersfc.com
Partnerships: Finally, we have started to put the final touches on our team partnership and sponsorship programs for our first season. Already, we have made agreements with great companies like UMBRO, VICTORIA MOBILE RADIO, BUDGET RENTALS, TEAM SALES, SOCCERWORLD, SPANK IT/ALL SPORTS, CARREIRO, GRAND & TOY, ISLANDNET.COM, and DELCO BUILDING MAINTENANCE. Over the next few months we anticipate announcing other new partners, including our title partner - whose name will be emblazoned on our kit, including the front of our game jerseys. If you have a company that would like to align with our club you can call us at the Highlanders FC office (250) 590-8432.
I would like to take the time to invite you to become a Highlander supporter and join our family. We pledge to provide the best in soccer competition and entertainment; develop young footballers and be a valued member of the community you can be proud of. Our mission is to be leaders on and off the field at the PDL level of the USL and move players through each level of their development to achieve their goals. We hope you will come along for a great ride to a new soccer experience on Vancouver Island. See you at the pitch!
Drew Finerty, GM
Victoria Highlanders FC