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The Lighthouse Chronicle

Part One.

I was happy living in my lighthouse, tending to my garden of vegetables and walking down by the seafront. I was happy being away from football for the first time in 52 years. On March 22, 2021, I had been out of the game for less than two years after being dismissed by Delia bloody Smith at Norwich. Not even in the kitchens. Or the canteen. In the back of her fucking limousine.

“Mr. Storm,” a voice accustomed to instant obedience sounded across the bushes. “Are you here Mr. Storm?”

“I’m going to KILL you. You little measly piece of crap. You’re nothing to me. I give up. I BLOODY give up.”

The sight of a ravished vegetable marrow greeted my visitor, launched over from inside my vegetable garden, hitting the path with a clatter and rolling to a stop underneath the foot of a polished leather shoe.

“I’ve planted eleven of these vegetable marrows and they’ve driven me to INSANTY. I nurse them. I give them bottled water from a stream in Angola. Every day. I read books. Mostly Neil Warnock’s biographies and The Nowhere Men but books all the same. When the little flowers show themselves, I snip ‘em off. All but one so they can conserve their strength. Do they appreciate that? Do they buggery, son. They just grow to a conventional size, whatever that means. Then they rest on their laurels like Arsenal the year after the Invincibles or Chris Darwen after his first book. How am I going to win first prize at the village fete for these marrows if they won’t grow?”

“I beg your pardon?” The visitor should have looked wide-eyed and startled by my unhappiness over these damn marrows but instead he coolly responded. “I’m here to talk football.”

“I thought you were one of the Gardeners Association officials. Listen sunshine, I’ve told Brian at OneSoccer I’m not interested in doing punditry. I’m not fucking Gary Neville, am I? Brian’s a wanker who can’t be bothered to get off his spotty arse to get down here and be told to shove it to his face.”

The man, late 30’s with a dark head of styled hair, looked unperturbed by Brian’s fate or the presentation of what can only be described as a foul-mouthed Proper Football Man.

“I’m not here as a representative of any broadcaster, Mr. Storm.”

“You’re a journo, are you? Brave.”

“No, Mr. Storm. My name is Derek Martin, I am the Chairperson of HFX Wanderers Football Club and I have a business proposition for you.”

“Not interested,” I barked quickly. “You’ve had a wasted trip. I used to love football but, in the end, I realised she never loved me back. I’m out the game now, son, retired… put out to pasture. See yourself out.”

“I can’t pay you much, probably less than your assistant will be on given the length of his contact, but you’ll have carte blanche to manage the Halifax team. Let me handle contracts and hiring the staff, you just train the players and pick the match day squad.”

I hadn’t even logged onto BBC Sport since I came to the coastal region of Nova Scotia, let alone learnt anything about the Canadian Premier League. Why would I bother? My career spanned 327 appearances at 8 clubs, a managerial stint of nearly 40 years across 15 teams. I’d put in my time.

“Last season Stephen Hunt took us to second in the regular season and runners-up in the final. We need that extra push and you’re the man to provide it. A player in the old First Division, you’ve managed in the Premier League and the UEFA Cup…”

“I’m not the fella you want. He’s not here anymore.” I had already resigned myself to see out my remaining years here on the coast, watching the waves lap up against the rocks below my lighthouse. “I appreciate the offer, appreciate being thought of, but I’m done.”

“The CPL is a closed league, just eight teams take part. There’s a website called Dictate The Game, they have a column by JonnyGamesFM that’ll teach you everything you need to know.”

I have made mistakes in the past accepting moves to new clubs. As a player, I’d joined Tadcaster when an offer to move south with Chelsea was on the table. As a manager, that move from Western-Super-Mare to Poole in 1986 stood out as a grave error. The less said about Ipswich Town in 1997 the better and staying at Hemel Hempstead because I lived around the corner for eight years when offers flooded in on a weekly basis was madness.

“I didn’t want to have to do this,” Derek Martin was clearly not a man used to being denied. “If you don’t come with me to Wanderers Grounds, I’ll be forced to put out a tweet containing my location with a picture of yourself. Everybody will know where you are and social media is a very powerful tool, Mr. Storm. Football fans are a lot of things; reactionary, fickle, smelly, and especially obsessive when a celebrity is in their midst. This quiet idyllic life you’ve forged will be gone forever with one tap of my phone. It’s going to happen anyway so embrace it for a year, win us the league.”

“I don’t suppose I have a choice in all this.”

“You sure don’t.”

Part Two.

“Oh, for God’s sake.”

The football went from winger Cory Bent’s boot sailing over the back of the scoreboard behind the goal, lost forever to some lucky local driving on the main road that goes behind the stadium.

“How many bags of balls do we have?” I turned to my assistant Mesut Mert with hands firmly on my hips. “We’ll need another set from the league at this rate.”

Mesut Mert, along with goalkeeper coach Jan-Michael Williams are the only other members of the coaching staff currently at the club. A 43-year-old Canadian with experience in the USSL A-League with Montreal, Calgary Mustangs and Scotia S.C, he originally hailed from Ontario.

“Hey! Cory! That’s three you’ve sent over there, you gormless cretin!” I bellowed in the right winger’s direction and counted out three fingers to demonstrate my displeasure. “Fucking three! Do you think we have an unlimited supply? Do footballs grow in my garden? We’re supposed to be a professional football team, not delivering match balls to every schoolboy in the parish! Get your fucking knee over the ball when you strike it!”

Cory Bent hung his head low and trotted back to the halfway line for a goal kick as Mesut disappeared into the tunnel. Mesut tells me that Cory could be a star Canadian Premier League talent in the future but I can’t see it from the former AFC Fylde man. He’s like Jermaine Pennant without that one good season at Liverpool.

“Wouldn’t score in a brothel, would we?” I turned to Jan-Michael looking for affirmation but he simply shrugged his shoulders. A Trinbagonian international of some 80 caps, he genuinely looked disappointed to be in the same post code as me. “Thanks for that, Jan.”

Mesut emerged back from his trip to the changing room with a bag of balls slung over his shoulder. He picked one out, gave it a smell and a squeeze, nodded in my direction and then launched it accurately towards the opposition goalkeeper.

“We’re holding our own here, boss.”

“Do you think, Mesut? We’re playing our own reserves and it’s 0 – 0, 20 minutes in. We’ve not even had a shot on target.”

Mesut had been insistent that he arrange a friendly match between our first and second XI, which featured mostly youth players from the local area looking to impress enough to earn a contract. It had become hard to recognise which team was which on footballing merit, a task that admittedly was a little easier considering the oldest player on the second XI had barely turned 16. These young lads should have been out persuading an older cousin to buy them cigarettes, downing bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 on park benches and trying to pull the local bit of crumpet behind the back of the church… not dominating possession against a team of actual professional footballers.

Playing against your own youth team is never a satisfactory experience. If you win 6 – 0, it proves nothing. If you don’t win 6 – 0, you’re terrified that you can’t even destroy of team of spotty children. There are no real benefits, save for a bit of familiarisation and fitness. But it’s confidence we need. We need as much of it as possible heading into our first game at home to Forge FC.

We had to send a search party out for any true ‘highlights’ from the first half, save for the opening goal scored by striker Akeem Garcia. 11-8 favourite to be top goalscorer in the comp this season, the Trinidad & Tobago international bloody should have had four. A strike going as far wide as the corner flag took a wicked deflection off one of the teenagers and beat the goalkeeper, the referee kindly awarding it to Garcia.

“Jesus Henry Christ.” I moaned as I saw emergency left-back and Canadian international Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare fail to find teammate Alessandro Riggi with a simple pass just after the restart, missing him by five yards and finding the advertising hoardings. “Is it always this bad?”

“Worse,” responded Mesut with a chuckle. “At least you’ve got them playing some football, trying to pass it on the deck. Last season it was just long balls, hit and hope. Garcia got whiplash turning so much not sure where they’d land.”

“They don’t even have to think about much, we’re playing 4-4-bloody-2. One striker coming short, two wingers in support…” I trailed off as I saw Cory Bent nudged off the ball down the right and he took a comical fall, screaming as he did, rolling into the first row of seating with a clatter. “… direct passing, looking for the overlap of the full-back to create overloads. It’s not exactly what I’d class as a tactical masterclass.”

“It is here in Canada.”

The second half was at least a little more productive with Eriks Santos, a Brazilian defender, adding to Garcia’s opener with a header from a corner beyond youth goalkeeper Chris White – no doubt planning to celebrate his appearance in a Halifax shirt by having his first shave that evening. There was an embarrassing moment as skipper Andre Rampersad went for a high five with Santos, only to get completely pied-off and have to join in whatever strange Samba dance the defender was busting out.

“Where do I even begin with this lot? How did Stephen Hunt get them to the final? Second in the league? How do you start with players whose technical attributes are exclusively in single figures? They make my old Scarborough side look like prime 2012 Barcelona under Pep.”

Mesut scratched his chin, pausing for a moment as central midfield general Alex Marshall cannoned a strike from just outside the penalty area into the woodwork.

“You’ve taken four teams to the Premier League and taken Motherwell into Europe. How did you manage in the first few days with those clubs?”

“That’s actually a good question,” I admitted with a slump of the shoulders. “I brought in a few old school professionals, hard men, and toughened up the dressing room. I can’t do that here, the Chairman has made it clear that there’s no meat on the bones for transfers.”

“We can do it Logan, we just need to work out how to get the best out of what we have.”

“Why aren’t you a manager, Mesut? You could have taken over here, you could lead this team.”

“My voice squeaks when I shout. The players would mock. And the Chairman wanted you.”

Before I could ponder that thought, there was a dull thud and I turned to see twenty-one footballers with their necks craned upwards to see another match ball disappear over the scoreboard. The one player not with his eyes on the ball was the winger responsible, who instead had his hands on his head nervously looking to his manager.

“CORY BENT YOU USELESS SOD! That’s four now, you gutless tosspot! No, you don’t get a new ball. Go and find that one! Yes, you go and find it! Do I look like I’m fucking joking?! You’re subbed for Alejandro! Don’t walk to the bench, knobscratch! Ball went that way! Don’t even think about shaking your head at me, you couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo! Get over that fence!”

Alex Marshall would add a third in injury time at the end of the second half but concerns over what I’d seen would keep me awake long into the night.

Part Three.

It had been a whirlwind few weeks at Halifax Wanderers. There’s just so much admin to do and the Chairman’s claim that my position was ‘purely ceremonial’ and that I’d just focus on picking the match day squad had proved to be a bare-faced lie.

No less than 13 players had extension clauses to be reviewed including Alex Marshall and Eriks Santos. I had to set the Code of Conduct for the fines, which should have been the captain’s job, before trying to convince the media that I wanted to be here – no small feat when I’d have been much happier to see out my days in my lighthouse.

Young ‘keeper Kieran Baskett had made an appearance for the Canadian Under-20 side, Akeem Garcia scored his first international goal for Trinidad & Tobago and full-back Alejandro Portal appeared for Cuba in a 2 – 1 loss to the superstars of the Dominican Republic.

Omar Browne, on loan at Forge FC from CA Independiente, is said to be favourite for the Canadian Premier League top player award and his young counterpart is Alberto Soto – on loan from A. Madrid to Atlético Ottawa.

I met Mesut Mert in my garden beneath the lighthouse to figure out the registration rules.

“I don’t know how you do this every year, Mesut, I really don’t.” I shuffled the stack of papers in front of me containing player profiles. “It’s a cross between Geography, English, Geometry and bloody Algebra.”

Mesut grinned, peering over his notes and pointing to an important line.

“You can only have seven foreign players in the squad but you can only start five.”

“So what’s to stop me putting the other two on the bench and bringing them on 30 seconds into the game?”

“Nobody has ever thought of that…”

As with the A-League and Major League Soccer, the Canadian Premier League is dominated by rules, restrictions and regulations. Mesut tapped away at a scientific calculator.

“In British terms, the squad salary must be less than £11,250 per week and Under-21 players must play a combined total of 1,000 minutes of the 28 matches played. If we don’t meet that requirement, then we’ll earn a fine of £5,908.”

“What about the league itself?”

“All teams play each other four times, making the 28 fixtures and the top four teams qualify for a Play-Off Semi-Final. The two winners go ahead into the Final for the title.”

“Anything else?”

“Players can get a twelve-match ban for striking an official?”

I slid the calculator over to myself and began totting up the salaries.

“Where are we with the maximum squad salary?”

“We’re at £7,500 per week. Well under, boss.”

Irked that he knew that already and didn’t bother telling me, I added up the number of players at our disposal. 23. There was a limit of 23 players we could register. How fortuitous.

“And what’s this about a Canadian Championship?”

“Very lucrative, boss.” Mesut beamed with the smile of somebody who enjoys the big matches. “We get to compete not only against the sides here in Canada but our MLS representatives – Toronto FC, Vancouver and my old club Montreal. I hope we play them, I have many friends in Quebec.”

“Just out of interest, has a Canadian Premier League team ever won the Canadian Championship?”

“Not as such… no.”

Not wanting to embarrass Mesut any further, I turned my attention to some feedback the club had received from fans about my appointment. Nathaniel Brown thinks I’ll be a flop and Hugo Albinson is not looking forward to the Storm era. Keyboard warriors.

Part Four.


12th June 2021

In the studio, former Canadian international and record goalscorer Dwayne De Rosario joins host Adnan Virk to discuss all the latest action in the Canadian Premier League.

AV: Dwayne, we’re now ten games into the reign of former English Premier League manager Logan Storm’s reign at HFX Wanderers, recruited as we’re led to believe from his lighthouse in Nova Scotia by owner Derek Martin. How do you feel he’s done so far in the CPL?

DDR: As you say, only ten games in but HFX Wanderers sit top of the Canadian Premier League narrowly by one point over both Ottawa and Forge FC.

AV: Previously having taken teams like West Bromwich Albion, Norwich, Reading and Derby County into the English Premier League, do you think Storm has find a new way to establish himself without the benefit of a season in the Championship?

DDR: I would agree that he’s not been able to employ his usual tactics of getting a group of solid, powerful professionals in and becoming a physically dominant side, part of that is down to the registration rules and part due to Derek Martin’s reluctance to improve a squad that were runners-up last season.

AV: What are some of the highlights that you’ve picked up on and the positives from the opening stint?

DDR: Starting the season off with a win against a good Forge outfit really set the tone for the first few games, going on to secure an away draw against Forge and then a strong performance versus Cavalry FC. Halifax went six unbeaten out of the gate to really establish themselves as contenders in the CPL this season under Storm.

AV: It has been interesting to see how Storm has set up his team with the flat 4-4-2, it requires the two central midfielders to put in a lot of work. How about the negatives?

DDR: We can’t ignore the issues that have been reported in the local media around Logan Storm and goalkeeper Christian Oxner. Having elected to bring in young academy graduate Kieran Baskett as his number one, Oxner has been on the pine ever since. A popular member of the squad, Storm reportedly had a showdown with several senior players.

AV: It was reported at the time by the Canadian Soccer Review that Oxner’s demand for first-team football was ignored, which had a catastrophic effect on team moral, leading to the first defeat of Halifax’s season against Athletico Ottawa.

DDR: It seemed to be very much a case of Logan Storm’s way or the highway in that situation.

AV: What about his treatment of young players coming through, the likes of Baskett obviously seeing plenty of minutes but 20-year-old striker Samuel Salter has been rarely sighted when both Akeem Garcia and Joao Morelli have failed to fire in front of goal.

DDR: I wonder if Salter is the type of player that needs the support of his coach. The big question is, has Logan Storm given him that, Adnan?

AV: I think he has…

DDR: By benching him for most of the season?

Part Five.

“Is he here?” Roving reporter Julie Foudy questioned Halifax assistant Mesut Mert. “We haven’t got all day you know. Big shot former Premier League manager? Come on, what’s the holdup? Is he cowering in the toilet after today’s result?”

“Absolutely not,” Mesut responded with base in his voice. “Mr. Storm is merely preparing to speak to the assembled press. If you’re feeling restless, perhaps you’d like another biscuit? Mr. Storm favours a bourbon.”

Not one to pass up a biscuit, Julie took one and chomped away. That’s the moment I choose to come around the corner, just as she’s got a mouthful of crumbs. Now I am seen to be waiting for her to start the interview.

“Logan, thanks for… joining… me.”

“You’re very welcome, Julie. I trust you’re enjoying our hospitality.” I smiled at her like a split watermelon.

“The problem is, that your Halifax side have now become somewhat inconsistent with a draw and a loss in your last five fixtures. You’re still top of the Canadian Premier League but only narrowly from Forge FC and Cavalry FC.”

I should point out at this moment that we won three of those fixtures. Three good wins. Against good teams – Athletico Ottawa, York United and Pacific FC. There really are no easy games in Canada, how could there considering you play all the other teams four times and they have copious opportunities to scout your weaknesses.

“Things are never as bad as they seem, Julie. The table doesn’t lie and that’s not just a cliché. Many tables don’t lie. A patio table is great for inviting friends around, a table tennis table allows the lads to build fitness and I think we all can appreciate a card table for those moments when you pull down the pants of your mates and give them a good spanking.”

“Talk persists of your internal issues with goalkeeper Christian Oxner.” I wince at the mention of our back-up goalkeeper, who quite frankly has been far too outspoken in the press. “Some say, including ESPN! Analyst Dwayne De Rosario, that you’re in the process of losing the dressing room. You’re losing the plot, overheard last week referring to defenders Mateo Restrepo and Pierre Lamothe as useless fake footballers.”

“In my defence, I couldn’t remember if Mateo Restrepo was contracted to the club or he convinced everybody he was on his first day..”

“Rumours persist that there is player unrest and Chairman Derek Martin may have to step in.”

“Let’s be honest, I don’t care about anybody but myself at this stage in my career. I’m a name, to the CPL that’s what I’m still the most useful as. I’m a marquee name with English Premier League and Europa League experience. I bring eyes to the product and while the football might not be the most exciting you’ve ever seen, it’s working. Halifax are top of the ladder and we’ll stay there.”

“The transfer window opens in a week’s time. Do you have any business planned?”

“I don’t think there will be any.”

“That’s likely to irk a lot of HFX fans who are posting on social media to say that you should be looking for fresh blood in order to push the club to the title, especially as Sunderland appear interested in winger Cory Bent.”

“I don’t care what the players think, nevermind the supporters. But don’t worry, they’ll still like me for saying that. I’m the guy that the other clubs in this league couldn’t attract or afford. I’m all about the team now because Derek Martin bought me, so they must really like me. I don’t know how clearer I can make it; I just don’t care. After all this time, after over half a century in football… it’s not me, it’s all of them.”

That ends the interview on something of a sombre note with Julie Foudy.

I grab a couple of biscuits from the plate, saving one for ‘ron’.

Part Six.

“I’m staying right here.”

“You can’t! Come on, boss.” Mesut could whine all he wanted, I wasn’t prepared to leave my office at Wanderers Grounds. In fact, I had my foot firmly against the door so he couldn’t push it open. “Please, the Chairman will have my guts for garters.”

“I’m not going up there. Just not doing it.”

“This is your opportunity to set things right with Mr. Martin,” said Mesut thoughtfully. “I don’t think he’s a bad guy…”

He’s a tyrant. Ever since me little outburst to Julie Foudy, I’ve been held to some bullshit higher holier-than-thou standard, no more sending Mesut to conduct post-match (or indeed, pre-match) press conferences and I’ve even had to start attending the hospitality lunch to give a speech each week, satisfying the punters’ demand for “Yes we’ll attack” or “We’ll try not to concede.”

“I feel like you’re overreacting, boss.”

“Mesut, we’ve shipped six goals in the last three games. In today’s draw with Cavalry, Peter Schaale was as much use as a chocolate fireguard and Alex Marshall may have been on holiday back in Jamaica for all the good he did in midfield. Had anybody actually told Eriks Santos that there was a game on?!”

“Well, we did get the better of the second half.”

“We bloody had to having conceded two goals in the first 45,” I barked back at poor Mesut, often the target of my abuse. These days you can’t give the players the hairdryer treatment, the soft little souls they are. Forget the hairdryer, give me a flame thrower any day.

There had been a lot written about Derek Martin as the season had progressed, not least because of HFX Wanderers’ good form. The man behind the appointment, supposedly the one pulling the strings. The fact is, he’s an intelligent, forward-thinking bloke working hard and getting results from his staff. He can, however, be a little intimidating.

He has a long and thin office at the very top of Wanderers Grounds, which is styled to be more of a batting cage at the cricket than an office. This is more a slither of a corridor than open plan desk setup. What it means was that when you got the go-ahead to come in from his robotic secretary, you still had a trek to walk to him with the Chairman giving you the beady eye all the way. I’m not ashamed to admit that three times so far I’ve felt the cold stare of scrutiny on my travels.

“Mr. Storm, thank you for attending this meeting.” Derek Martin slid the latest match programme towards me and placed a finger down on it. “There seems to be some… mistakes… creeping into your work.”

“We are still second in the league, Chairman.” I responded with all the conviction of a weak-willed sexual obsession in a lap-dancing bar. “That’s nothing to turn our noses up at.”

“Be that as it may, second place is not good enough. That’s where we were last season and I didn’t like it then, I like it even less after I put myself out to bring you to my club.”

The facts are that we do indeed sit second behind Forge FC, who have 36 points compared to our 39 after 20 games.

“I’m looking at the form guide here and it doesn’t make for pretty reading. Our last five – Draw, Win, Loss, Win, Draw.”

“We’ve got eight more games to go before the Play-Offs, Chairman. Remember that it is a 28-game season.”

“It won’t be for you, Logan,” he said, reaching for the phone on his desk. “If you don’t start winning games every week, that I do promise.”

“I’m very confid-“

“Send that groundsman in, would you love?” Derek Martin addressed his assistant via his phone and shooed me away. “I’ve noticed that one of the white lines is an inch over where it should be and today, he’s getting it.”

I set off the 30 yards from his desk to the door out, wondering as I walked whether I would make it back to the canteen in time for lunch.

Part Seven.

We are back in the CPL on ESPN! Studio as Dwayne De Rosario is with Adnan Virk. Highlights air of Halifax’s game against Atletico Ottawa at Wanderers Grounds. The screen then cuts to an interview conducted by Adnan with Logan Storm following the final whistle.

AV: Hello Logan, thank you for joining us here on ESPN! Today’s game against Ottawa was certainly a tight one, just one goal in at the death.

LS: It wasn’t a brilliant game for the neutral but well always take three good points against a side that can do damage to anybody in the league. At the end of the day, we’ve got to keep the pressure on Forge.

AV: You must have been worried when Ottawa took the lead before the break, but you managed to mount a comeback in the second half.

LS: It was another sloppy goal to give away, I’d be fair minded about that… I mean my missus could have fucking played against us in that first half but the way we came back in the second. I’ve told the lads to take the positives out of that.

AV: A few weeks ago, the transfer window closed with just one piece of business conducted as you recruited an experienced defender to bolster the back line. What was the thinking behind that move into the transfer market?

LS: As you say, just one came in and that was Canadian defender Andre Hainault. That deal was a free transfer, he’s very experienced with the likes of Houston Dynamo, Aalen and Kaiserslautern over in Germany so you can understand how excited we were to get his John Hancock on a contract. The initial plan was to see which of Eriks Santos and Peter Schaale would compliment the new signing, then I remembered that both of them are crap so I dropped the pair of them. That’s meant Jems Geffrard could return to the side. He’s not exactly quick or able to pass the ball but he has got a jumping reach second to few.

AV: Geffrard is a Haitian international of some 24 caps, he must have brought some much-needed influence and calm to your defence.

LS: You’d think so. He’s a clever lad, he just needs to use his loaf – literally – and fucking head it and kick it. None of this thinking he’s Franz Beckenbauer or Djimi Traoré. If in doubt, get rid. We all know that.

AV: Cory Bent was instrumental in the first goal to make it 1 – 1, crossing low for Joao Morelli to finish.

LS: That’s what Cory’s been told, get to the byline, back of a length, and get the cross in. He’s like Liam Feeney I had at Blackburn. All I want is him to whip the ball in, cut it back for the strikers to get onto and it’s an easy finish. No goalkeeper in this league is stopping that. My grandmother, God rest her soul, could have scored that one.

AV: It was Morelli himself who set up the next goal to make it 2 – 1 in your favour, threading a ball through to young Samuel Salter. He’s a youngster, like Kieran Baskett, who you’ve trusted with significant minutes this season, so that must have pleased you.

LS: Sammy’s done fantastic when he’s been on the pitch, he’s a rising star if ever I’ve seen one but I had to play young players this season, the rules and regulations demand it. Salter and Baskett are two of the best prospects so it’s only right they get the minutes. Nevertheless, I don’t want to focus on that today, I want to focus on the win. It takes great big balls to put a late penalty away like that and they don’t come bigger than Akeem Garcia. What nerve he showed there.

AV: With just five to play, where does this leave HFX Wanderers?

LS: Well, having qualified for the Play-Offs two games ago, we’re getting ready for the end of season dance. The expectations haven’t changed throughout the season, we want to win silverware.

AV: It’s been reported that already a deal is in place to sign Valour FC winger Moses Dyer for next season. Will there be any scope for more wheeling and dealing?

LS: Don’t even start, Adnan.

Part Eight.

Today was the day that HFX Wanderers could have finished top of the Canadian Premier League.

Today was the day that the hopes and dreams of a fanbase could have been realised.

Today was the day that Chairman Derek Martin could have punched the air in jubilation.

Today was the day that Logan Storm’s presence in Nova Scotia could have been justified.

Despite what popular revived film franchises may tell you, sadly, life does not always find a way.

We’d gotten ourselves into a great position, wins over FC Edmonton and away at Pacific had brought us within touching distance. All we had to do was earn three points against York United FC and that would have been all she wrote. HFX would have been first past the post, the league winners heading into the Play-Off Finals. A loss would open the door for our great rivals Forge FC.

It was completely a predicament of our own doing after we failed to beat Forge themselves at Tim Hortons Field in the Canadian Championship Quarter-Final. Not a league encounter but the win made sure that Forge had their dander up for the remaining two league fixtures.

A point ahead going into the final day… it just wasn’t to be. I knew it was going to be a tough ask when Brazilian striker Joao Morelli sustained a bruised knee during training the day before the game. Both Alex Marshall and striker Stefan Karajovanovic had international commitments at the worst time possible. Pierre Lamothe and Akeem Garcia weren’t fit enough to be selected after knocks.

Five minutes into the game, Eriks Santos had to come off due to injury.

Against the run of play, we took the lead with 15 minutes on the clock as Gagnon-Lapare crossed for Portal to head home. York United equalised five minutes later thanks to a super hit by Petrasso from well outside the penalty area.

Salter missed chance after chance as I glanced up to the heavens. Finally the breakthough came before half time, Schaale rising highest a corner to glance the ball beyond York custodian Ingham. Then Verhoeven squared the ledger with just under 40 play.

We toiled.

We tried.

We failed to capitalize on our opportunities.

Two hours later and Forge FC finished the 28-game regular season with a routine win over Pacific FC, they claimed top spot on the final day by a solitary point.

Part Nine.

If my visit to Canada were the final scenes of a Hollywood epic, even if this had been a tale of the plucky underdog from the wrong side of the tracks desperate to showcase their skills on a national stage against big town rivals, then you would already know the outcome of the Canadian Premier League Play-Off Final.

HFX Wanderers would win the trophy and not just win it but win well. Chairman Derek Martin would give a nod of appreciation to manager Logan Storm from the director’s box, Storm himself punching the air in celebration before being mobbed by players lofting him in the air. The Final would not have been won by competition top scorer Joao Morelli or Sunderland-bound Cory Bent, instead further down the field.

Last minute drama would have seen young goalkeeper Kristen Baskett suffer an injury giving away a penalty with HFX leading by a score of 1 – 0. Stood over him as assistant Mesut Mert checks on the lad, Storm fears the worst before Mesut looks up and shakes his head to indicate that Baskett can’t continue. As the gaffer leans down to tap Baskett on the shoulder in a show of support, Mesut tugs on his coat sleeve. Mesut directs his attention to the bench, where much maligned reserve goalie Christian Oxner is sat.

Beckoned down to the side of the pitch, the manager holds out his luminous yellow goalkeeper’s gloves. He points to his chest in amazement, ‘Who? Me’ he mouths. Handed his gloves and shirt, he puts them on and runs out to take up his position between the sticks. Forge FC’s Senegalese midfielder Elimane Cissé steps up and sees his penalty saved by Oxner with a brilliant stop.

Oxner leaps to his feet and celebrates wildly, the referee duly blows the final whistle.

HFX Wanderers are Canadian Premier League Champions.

I run over to him like Jose Mourinho down the touchline at Old Trafford all those years ago and hug Oxner as if he was my own son. I weep in celebration after such a blinding, brilliant, crucial save. The Hollywood camera pans upwards to the sky, fireworks go off, the celebration party about to get into full swing below.

Life is not Hollywood. Football does not adhere to a script containing redemption and self-discovery, it is instead, badly constructed.

Forge FC, our rivals throughout the season, take the lead in the first half. We briefly equalise in the second stanza but it’s not enough as Forge run out 3 – 1 winners on our own patch. After a full season of action, HFX finish as runners-up twice… again.

Part Ten.


A Retrospective Look at Logan Storm

The stewardship of Logan Storm at HFX Wanderers was doomed from the start, some say. Unable to bring in new players and secure the Canadian Premier League title, Storm departed Halifax after just one season. These are the thoughts of those who worked with the experienced Football Manager in Canada.

Derek Martin: He was a bluffer. An unmitigated disaster. Worst decision I ever made. Appointing Logan Storm was utterly pointless, a waste of time. He left us second in the league and runners-up in the Play-Off. We were in exactly the same position the season before under Stephen Hunt and he overspent on wages. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t bother.

Mesut Mert: Mr. Storm was an enigmatic personality, he understood the secret of football management and good comedy… wait for it… timing. He was brilliant for me and put in a letter of commendation to the Chairman so I could get the job after he left. The Chairman appointed Dominic Kinnear.

Eriks Santos: Logan Storm wasn’t a bad manager, maybe a little out of touch given his age but he was certainly a bit odd, that day when he referred to Alex Marshall as a thick git and told Cory Bent that he was a jammy bastard for having interest from Sunderland. We never did find out what ‘eggbound’ meant when he was late for training that time though. Now I think about it, he did drop me when he made a new signing so probably best to see the back of him.

Alex Marshall: He called me ‘The Dreadlocked Messi’. I’m not sure I’m okay with that.

Jan-Michael Williams: He asked me which member of the Cool Runnings Jamaican bobsleigh team I was. That’s definitely not okay.

Cory Bent: I tried my best with the guy, I really did but 4-4-2? Come on, man! I’m an inside forward, anybody can see that, and he insisted I play on the wing. I don’t even know who Liam Feeney is! When Sunderland scouts came to watch me, he told them to bring a Greggs sausage roll and a flask up or they weren’t allowed in the stadium. The man’s a weird dude. I didn’t let him near my kids.

Jake Ruby: There’s a group of us; myself, Mamadi, Scott Firth and Omar Kreim, who genuinely believe he didn’t even realise we were registered to play. He thought Stefan Karajovanovic was the coach driver for eight weeks.

Samuel Salter: I can’t fault the guy, gave me a chance in the first team and I scored a few goals. When it was raining he’d come over with an umbrella and keep me dry. Gave me calf massages. The lads did start to refer to me as ‘Son Of’ but it was worth it, I got my first Under-21 international caps under Logan Storm, so did the Baskett case in goal.

Christian Oxner: Has he left? Oh, that is a shame…

Logan Storm departed Nova Scotia shortly after the Canadian Premier League had ended. Observers report that his possessions have disappeared, all that remains on the doormat is a pair of luminous yellow goalkeeping gloves to mark his time in the lighthouse.

Written by Craig Thompson

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