Myers made for leading Douglas soccer squad
Being the good Scouser and fanatic supporter of the Liverpool Football Club that he was, Paul Myers couldn’t help but put a soccer ball in front of his son Dylan when he was a toddler growing up in their West End home in New Westminster.
If he was seeking an early brainwashing to the “beautiful game” as it’s frequently called, Papa Paul was successful.
As team captain, Myers will be leading the Douglas College Royals into a season with high expectations, especially considering they will be hosting the Canadian College Athletic Association men’s soccer championship in November.
“Ever since I could walk I can remember being in the basement kicking a ball,” says Myers as he stands at Grimston Park where he first started kicking a ball around outside.
While some kids might have rebuffed the pressure to play soccer by his dad, Myers embraced it with his passion for the sport never diminishing.
“If anything it grows every year. I’m more competitive than ever now,” says Myers, who plays centre back and right fullback.
Myers began to realize he might be pretty good when he was on an under-13 team that won a provincial championship. His coach, Bill Lean, started talking to universities south of the border. Lean arranged for Myers to visit Bacone College in Muskogee, Okla., a NCAA Division II school, when he was in Grade 10.
“It was exciting,” says Myers. “It was a bit more of a professional atmosphere than youth soccer here. It was more of an experience thing.”
In his teens, Myers played several years for the Burnaby Selects, winning an under-15 provincial title. But he almost took a detour from the sport when he was in high school.
One Friday night, he was fooling around with some friends including Marko Susic, a star on the New Westminster Hyacks football team at the time, and they started challenging each other by kicking field goals. Myers was able to easily put them through from 40 yards. He didn’t think it was a big deal, but Susic was beside himself..
“He told me not everyone can kick a ball that far,” recalls Myers.
Susic, naturally, told Hyacks head coach Farhan Lalji and he recruited Myers providing the flexibility for Myers to meet his soccer obligations while kicking for the Hyacks. Lalji looked into finding a football scholarship for his protege with the golden foot. While Myers considered the possibility, it but it wasn’t for him.
“It didn’t drive me at the time, and it was a thing I could always go back to if I need, but soccer was in my blood,” said Myers. “Once England came calling nothing was going to change my mind.”
That would be Bolton, England, where the Wanderers play in that country’s top levels. After graduating from NWSS in 2009, Myers had talked to the University of B.C., but he’d gotten an invitation to a youth identification camp in Bolton later that fall. If he went to UBC, that wouldn’t be possible. It was with the Royals, a perennial Pac West powerhouse in men’s soccer led by head coach Joe Ormerod.
“Douglas College gave me the opportunity to still go to school and leave,” said Myers, who headed to England a week after the soccer season was done. “It was just the pro atmosphere and it was a religion over there, and that’s the way it was for me growing up.”
The enormity of the passion for soccer in Britain really struck home one day when the squad he was working with went back to the stadium from the practice field and were berated by opposition fans staying at the adjacent hotel prior to a Premier League game against Bolton.
“We were not even on the men’s team and we were getting jeered at like we were,” Myers says with a little smirk.
While his father came to Canada in his teens because the job opportunities were brighter here, Myers isn’t sorry he grew up in New West instead of Liverpool where everyone is as infatuated with the sport as he is, and where their brand of ‘football’ dominates the sporting fabric more than hockey does in this country.
“Things might be a little different because there’s opportunity to get noticed, but I’ve been blessed now because my dream now is to be a firefighter. There’s more options here besides soccer,” says Myers.
The dream of playing pro soccer hasn’t entirely left him yet, however. Earlier this year, Myers participated in a San Jose Earthquakes identification camp. The Major Soccer League’s head coach is New Westminster native Frank Yallop. Myers talked to Yallop on the phone a few times, and when the Earthquakes were in town to play the Vancouver Whitecaps, Yallop issued him an invitation to the camp that had several top college players. The experience helped him realize he could compete on that level, and also helped others realize his talent couldn’t be dismissed just because he was from a small Canadian college.
Myers is heading into his fourth season with the Royals, and he plans on it being his last. He’s been taking some firefighting online courses from a school in Texas, and after the soccer season is done he’ll be heading down there to finish off his certificate. While he’s got some connections in the Burnaby and New Westminster departments, he doesn’t have any solid job commitments.
“I connect it a lot to sports where it’s a team environment. You’ve got to be a leader and the respect that you’ve got to earn through the work, and the excitement too. I would never do a desk job, it’s not for me,” says Myers.
This will be Myers second season as the team’s captain. In fact, almost every team he’s been on he’s been the captain. “I like the responsibility being laid on me.”
Last year, the Royals were ranked No. 1 in the province, but the team didn’t even get to play in the provincial championships because all of their wins were wiped out for using an ineligible player. It should provide motivation for the upcoming season even though the Royals already have a berth in the Canadian championship (Nov. 7-10) as the host school.
“It stung. With us hosting nationals this year it’s the best situation that could have happened. We have a strong team and a lot of guys coming back. We’ve got that chip on our shoulder,” says Myers.
Myers says the Royals, who begin the 2012 season next week on the road, want to win the provincial title because it would mean having the advantage of being a higher seed than if it was just in the tournament as the host school.
“It’s nice to know you have that cushion, but we want to win that game and go down as one of the best teams of all time.”