Whether or not Alphonso Davies plays at BC Place Stadium this Sunday (March 24), one of his former coaches hopes to be there to see and cheer on the budding Canadian soccer star.
Adam Day, technical director at Guildford Athletic Club since last fall, coached Davies when he first arrived in Vancouver to play in the Whitecaps system.
“When he first came to the club, it was called U16s, and we basically had a double-age-group team, and Alphonso was among the younger players, just coming in, and I’ll never forget it,” Day said Tuesday.
Long before then, Day said, there’d been plenty of talk about Davies because the Whitecaps had tried to get him to move to Vancouver the year before, from Edmonton, but his parents had deemed him too young at the time.
“We had three days of training and fitness testing, and then we played a friendly match on the Friday and he scored four goals and set up another two, and his team won about 9-3 – against another of the Whitecaps teams,” Day recalled. “I knew this kid didn’t need to be training with me anymore.”
Davies, now 18, played for Day for those first several months before he graduated to the Caps’ U18 team.
“It wasn’t long before the club decided yeah, he’s too good for the team I was coaching, he needs to move up,” Day said. “Sure enough, he joins the U18s and within six months, it’s the same thing and he joins the reserve team, and up he goes very quickly. He’s met every challenge and look, he’s just got his first goal for Bayern on the weekend.”
Local soccer fans were thrilled when Davies netted his first for the high-profile Munich club on Sunday (March 17), in a 6-0 win over Mainz. The Bundesliga rookie transferred to Germany late last year in a $22-million deal with the Whitecaps, with whom Davies blossomed last MLS season.
A week after his first goal for Bayern, it appears Davies may not be in the lineup when Canada takes on French Guiana in a CONCACAF Nations League qualifying game. At stake is a place in the top tier of the league and a berth in the 2019 Gold Cup.
This week, Team Canada coach John Herdman told reporters Davies “felt something” while celebrating his goal on Sunday, and as a result may not be available to play at BC Place.
Said Day on Tuesday: “He’s back in town this weekend, and I don’t know if he’ll be playing, but it would be nice to catch up with him. I’m probably going to the game myself, and I’m excited for that. I’m excited about what’s happening in Canada right now with (soccer).
“With Alphonso, I think everyone who knows him is just waiting for that spark,” Day added, “and he’s playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world. It’s exciting.”
Guildford Athletic Club is the latest stop for Day with a game that has taken him around the world, starting in his native London, England. He worked his way to North America and the Whitecaps FC residency program, and also spent time in Greece helping Arsenal, the Premier League team in England, set up an academy there.
“It was a brilliant experience, exactly what I needed at the time,” Day recalled. “I’d been here in Vancouver for probably three or four years, and was running Quest University in Squamish, the men’s program there, and this job came up. I have good connections with (Arsenal), and my brother (Jamie) was a young pro there.”
The job “was the Greek dream,” Day added, “with the white villa with the blue trim, on the beach. You know, it was bit isolated but you talk about the Greek lifestyle you see in the vacation packages, it was that. And it was a very good job, a demanding one, because it was a new investment in that academy, and the club felt it was an untapped market in Europe…. Funny enough, when I was there, Ajax started to open an academy there, Juventus opened one, and Liverpool tried to come in not knowing Arsenal was already there.”
Day now lives with his family in Coquitlam, a 20-minute commute to the Guildford clubhouse at Hjorth Road Park.
With the spring season set to start in a couple weeks, the club recently finished the winter season with around 700 players who range from age six to adult.
As technical director, Day’s job is to teach soccer skills to the coaches and, ultimately, players.
“I’ve come in to try to revamp the education side of it, the coach education, and that includes some paid coaches but the bulk of it is parent volunteers, and that’s a huge part of it, just raising some general standards and better practices,” Day explained. “My job is to bring some of the skills from that world, the professional world, into this, and I’m not going to say I’ll make Guildford a professional club, but I think we can have professional standards and processes, practices.”
Guildford Athletic Club recently held a free weekly camp for girls looking to play soccer, with a grant from BC Soccer, in an effort by the club. Such initiatives are key to growing the game in Canada, Day said.
At Guildford, the mandate is to get kids playing at a young age, and keep them playing, he said.
”We’re a little different here in being more of a Tier 2 club, with the bigger BCSPL clubs around, and we work closely with Surrey United,” Day elaborated. “Their role in the process is to produce players for the Vancouver Whitecaps, and we’re on the other end of the scale. We need to push our top-end players on that path, but our main focus is to make sure kids are wanting to play this sport and stop them falling out the other end of it.”
The job at GAC is “something a little different for me,” Day said, “but different can sometimes be good, and I’m also aware that taking this job will have me working on some different skill sets. As a coach, your job is to coach the team, dealing with players, but this is something else. I’m enjoying it.”