From Farm to Fork in less than 100 km has been the big trend in Hamilton’s restaurants the last several years, and it seems the same demands are being placed on fledgling Forge FC. The on field product will be sourced locally, almost all within 100km of Tim Hortons field, yet there have been rumblings within the local soccer community that Head Coach Bobby Smyrniotis may be selecting too many players from beyond Hamilton’s city limits.
Several clubs within the existing local soccer structure have been asked to full heartedly support the new Canadian Premier League side as they begin this inaugural CPL Season. With that in mind the majority of the players signed to date are former members of Sigma Academy. With a population over 500,000 one would imagine that at least one player from Hamilton would make the squad.
As it stands “Got Game” trialist Taha Ilyass (pictured) is the only true Hamiltonian in camp. While he doesn’t feel any added pressure as the only lad from the Hammer with the squad, he certainly doesn’t think that he will be the last.
“I feel like this first year is a big step forward for Canada and Hamilton and it will give the up and comping players an opportunity to prove it.” Ilyass said. He also believes there are more players just like him waiting in the wings. “100%, not just guys my age but even guys that are a couple years younger than me, I know that a lot of them have the level and the quality to be able to play in the league.”
Smyrniotis’ record of producing players speaks for itself. Part of why he was brought in was the development structure that he set in place with Sigma. As it turns out his vision for Hamilton is similar to what he’s already been doing in the GTA for the last 15 years.
“I think it’s important for the long term viability of a club,” Smyrniotis said of his squad building plans. “We want to be able to build structures. We don’t want to just be a team at the top of a pyramid, but being able to build things up underneath. So I think it’s something we’re looking at in the future, and it wouldn’t be a 2019 thing, but looking at 2020, and going forward it’s something we’re committed to.
“We’re committed to building structures, and making sure that the community here in Hamilton really has that high performance aspect of things and an ability for players to move up. So in the future we have a few players playing on the pitch that are local from here. You know that takes time. That takes building that culture and building that identity, but that’s something we have experience in and will bring to the table.”
While the local clubs will have to wait for a return on their support, the actual supporters seem to be more than willing to wait for their ambitious club to fully develop first team players.
“Short term, it doesn’t worry me” says Barton St. Battalion head honcho Allan Goreman. “You know if 10, 15 years from now there’s never been one Hamilton born and raised player on the field then that’s a whole different story, but right now I think it’s more important to get the league up and running, and get it working, and then hopefully that will breed and inspire a couple of younger kids to come up through a system.”
Forge will host York9 in the Canadian Premier League’s inaugural match on April 27 at Tim Hortons Field. We will continue to bring you coverage from pre-season training and throughout the season.