The Halifax Wanderers are pleased to announce that Jamie Watson has accepted an invitation to attend this year’s training camp and will have the opportunity to earn a spot on the 2021 roster under a CPL-U SPORTS contract.
Watson signed for Raith Rovers as a professional in June 2017, and was part of the Development Squad, winning the SPFL Development League East two years in a row in 2016/17 and 2017/18. Watson went on to make his debut for the Raith Rovers first team when he was 18-years-old. “I ended up playing seven games that year and was then promoted to the first team and signed a two year contract,” explains Jamie Watson. “Overall I played 36 games for the first team in the third division before we won the league title and got promoted to the Scottish Championship for the 2019/2020 season.”
The 21-year-old from Kirkcaldy, Scotland is a versatile player, making appearances for Raith Rovers at full-back and midfield. Furthermore, Watson was awarded Player of the Year in his 2017/18 season for his outstanding contributions to his team’s success.
“We’re pleased to welcome Jamie to trial at the Club with a view to earning a CPL-U SPORTS contract. He can play a number of positions and already has professional experience in his young career, both of which were attractive in extending this invitation,” said Matt Fegan, HFX Wanderers VP of Football Operations. “Although he has yet to begin his CBU Capers playing career, his commitment to moving to Atlantic Canada already is a natural fit for us. We want to help teams at every level in our region to attract this calibre of talent, raise the level of play and create more pathways for local players to develop their game into professional careers.”
Similar to the Wanderers 2021 U SPORTS Draft players Kareem Sow and Stefan Karajovanovic, Watson now has a chance to pursue his academics without hindering his opportunities to play at a professional level. Watson was attracted to Canada as a great opportunity to pursue both his education and his professional career in football simultaneously.
“At first I wanted to play (University) football and get an education at the same time, then after school and the four years at University I wanted to go back into professional football. So then I heard about the CPL-U SPORTS and how you can pursue education while also playing professionally in the CPL, so that really persuaded me to come to Canada.”
Watson has arrived in Halifax and is currently serving his 14-day quarantine. While in isolation he jumped on a phone call with Wanderers Brand Manager Dylan Lawrence to chat about his professional experience so far and how the CPL-U SPORTS relationship opens an opportunity for him to pursue both education and professional football.
Dylan Lawrence: Welcome to Halifax, Jamie. Can you tell us about your experience playing professionally with Raith Rovers in Scotland?
JW: I joined them when I was 17 and they offered an apprenticeship contract – you’re there for two years and you learn the trade being around the first team. I was playing with the reserve team and we won the reserved league in our first two years. In that second year I won player of the year and I made my debut when I was 18 for the Raith Rovers FC first team.
Throughout this experience, what sparked your interest in exploring North America and ultimately ending up in Canada?
JW: When I was 16, I was still in High School and I started looking for scholarships in America and was wanting to pursue that – but obviously I wanted to be a professional footballer first so when I got offered the contract (with Rather Rovers FC) I couldn’t say no. Further into my time there I got in contact with someone who was trying to help me get to America before and he tried to help me find a school again but I couldn’t because of my years of experience playing professionally; they had a lot of rules around that. So he then suggested Canada and chatted with Cape Breton University where he had sent over a few Scottish boys already. So I met with him over last Christmas (2019) and got the ball rolling but unfortunately my August trip got postponed because of the pandemic.
With your decision to move to North America to play, was the main goal to pursue education?
JW: At first I wanted to play football (for a school) and get an education at the same time, then after school and the four years at University I wanted to go back into professional football. Then I heard about the CPL-U SPORTS Draft and how you can pursue education and also play professionally in the Canadian Premier League, so that really persuaded me to come to Canada.
Can you tell us a bit about your growing up in Scotland and what the football culture is like there?
JW: Where I’m from football is everything – everyone wants to be a footballer. From what I know about Canada is that it’s a reasonably up and coming sport. I’ve played loads of sports until I was around 14-years-old when I had to pick between football and other sports, so of course I picked football and I haven’t looked back. The team’s stadium (Raith Rovers) is only five minutes away from my house so playing for my local team was a dream come true.
Well it’s great for Canadians now, similar to your experience, local players can now look forward to growing up and playing for their local team.
JW: Yeah exactly, you don’t have to go to America or travel to Europe you can now play for your own team in Canada which is really good.
With Halifax in particular, where did you first get connected with the club and what attracted you to want to join the Wanderers training camp?
JW: So obviously when I was intrigued about the CPL-U SPORTS Draft, I was aware that Halifax was the closest team to Cape Breton University and Deano Morley (CBU’s Men’s Soccer Head Coach) spoke very highly of the team. Cory Bent and Peter Schaale also came here and smashed it really – I watched a bit of the Island Games and the highlights when I could. It was a good standard – it looked brilliant really and I enjoyed watching it. There were good games from what I had seen. I’ve also heard that it’s a tight community; it sounds like everyone is connected with each other and I’ve heard that the Wanderers get the most attendance at their games in the Canadian Premier League.
As a player, what’s so attractive about playing in this type of environment where the fans get behind the team like they do here in Halifax?
JW: I think the importance of having a packed stadium is massive because the fans get behind you and it gives you that extra fight, especially when it’s a huge game. As cliche as it sounds they really are the 12th player of the team and it would be great to see fans back in the stadium and getting behind the players again.
What does it mean for you to have someone like Peter Schaale, who has been through the U SPORTS Draft experience, there to support you on your journey into Canada?
JW: I think instantly when I was able to get in contact with Peter he’s been great with me – helped me settle in well and ran through a few things about the team. He’s been where I am, coming from Cape Breton University and trying to earn a U SPORTS contract so it’ll be good to learn from him and hopefully it’ll be a successful time here in Halifax.