For Halifax Wanderers Sporting Director Matt Fegan, there is little that goes with the notion of an ‘off-season’ right now. And the hard work continues to set the club up for future success.
In preparation for 2023, the club continues its process of hiring a new head coach, evaluates the construction of its roster and looks for ways to continue contributing to the local soccer pathway.
At this exciting time, Fegan will provide monthly updates on the Wanderers’ soccer operations, starting with the following Q and A.
What is the latest update on the Wanderers’ process of hiring a new head coach?
I am pleased to say there has been a lot of interest from coaches at every level of the game in and out of Canada. We’ve begun the formal interview phase with a shortlist of candidates who were either targets we always had in mind if the position ever came open or coaches who have come forward since the vacancy opened up. We remain on track to name the person to lead us into the next chapter of the Wanderers before the end of November.
What are we looking for in a new head coach?
In evaluating the names, we are adamant that whoever gets the job must reflect our values and priorities as a club. We want the team to reflect the community we represent in work ethic, ambition and winning mentality. That always begins with the Head Coach. In a recent podcast interview, I spoke about the importance of emotional intelligence for any coach in the modern game. It’s the ability to create a clear identity for the team and then connect with each individual, on their level, to help them understand their role in working towards the greater good. We must continue to build on the foundations Stephen Hart put in place, improving on all facets of our daily work, individually and collectively. If we can get that right, we will elevate our results to deliver consistent playoff football to Halifax. I subscribe to the belief that the head coach is the true cultural architect of the football department because it’s their vision that everyone around them must unite to get the results we all work for on the pitch. We’re excited to see where this can go.
How are we going to handle roster decisions with the new head coach?
Our current squad has, by design, a fair amount of flexibility in contractual terms. Of the 24 players that ended the 2022 season with us, Four have guarantees on 2023 (Fumpa Mwandwe, Cristian Campagna, Ludwig Kodzo Amla and João Morelli), 17 have club options which we can trigger before the end of the year, and three contracts expire (Cory Bent, Marcello Polisi and Pierre Lamothe). The timeline of our head coach appointment at the end of November is intentionally planned to give them a chance to evaluate the current squad and shape how our core will be retained for our 2023 build.
As Sporting Director, I’ll continue to work closely with the Head Coach to ensure they and their team have everything they need to succeed on the field, including recruiting targets they identify. We know there are some areas we need to strengthen, and discussions are already underway with available targets to identify players in each position who can be secured with the blessing of the new gaffer.
How are we arranging off-season training opportunities for our players?
One of the factors in our efforts to recruit new players to Halifax is our assurance we are here to help each individual develop their own game. Every player should aspire to take their career to the highest possible level, and we support those goals whenever an opportunity arises to move a player upwards.
Despite our team results this season, we saw several excellent and promising individual performances that turned some heads at international clubs that see the Canadian Premier League as a new development pipeline for talent. It’s imperative we keep the door open to consider suitable offers as well as to assist players in getting supplementary training. At the same time, we wait to bring everyone back together next spring. Already this off-season, we are pleased to have secured a training stint for centre-back Cristian Campagna with German club FC Nürnberg. We expect others to follow similar routes to international and domestic club partners shortly.
What are we working on for 2023 to support the local soccer pipeline?
Closer to home, we continue our commitment to developing pathways for the region’s best talent to ultimately reach our first team. We were delighted to launch the Wanderers U23 program with two successful exhibition games against PLSQ opposition this year. We are working on plans to expand this program to approximately six games in Summer 2023 with the aim of taking some of those events to other markets in Atlantic Canada. We’re looking forward to announcing the opposition for these games. We plan to have a mix of Canadian clubs from outside this region, and international clubs welcomed through relationships we have established overseas.
How are we encouraging the local pathways into the first team?
We want to validate our support for the region’s current talent during the 2023 CPL U-SPORTS Draft. This year, the Halifax Wanderers will commit to selecting two players exclusively from Atlantic University Sports programs who will earn preseason trials and a chance to earn contracts for the 2023 season. We feel this shows a signal of intent that we believe in the quality of talent competing in Atlantic Canada and will help AUS coaches with another recruitment angle in their efforts to attract quality talent to their schools in the future.
“For now, it’s back to the drawing board as we work hard on all aspects of our football department, aiming to deliver a level of on-field success that matches the undoubted off-field achievements we have managed to date.”
“I look forward to providing more updates in the months ahead.”