Rob Gale has been handed a hard hat and tool belt. Now the new GM and head coach of Valour FC has rolled up his sleeves and started construction on the new Canadian Premier League club, a task which dominates virtually his every waking hour.
And, undoubtedly a few of the hours his eyes are closed, too.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way, to be honest,” said Gale this week. “There’s so much involved and such a wide scope with starting a soccer club and the uniqueness of that opportunity that it just consumes me… be it players, be it staff, be it the community, be it supporters, be it building the brand and the values and drive the message.
“Even long before we even get to kick a ball there’s so much work to be done. And so, very simply, that consumes your thoughts. It’s the first thing I think of when I wake up and if I wake up in the night, I’m already thinking about it and probably dreamed about it. It’s also the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night.
“There’s no greater honour and privilege to me than to be able to lead this football club forward. It gives me energy. After the first 72 hours (following his official announcement last week as GM/head coach) I received well over 5,000 messages and overwhelming positive support. That energizes you, you never feel tired.”
The CPL is still in the middle of its franchise reveals – Hamilton will be announced next week as the sixth franchise after York, Calgary, Halifax, Winnipeg and Edmonton – and until that process is completed, some of the key team-building components are still to be determined.
That means any potential league drafts, player allocations or tryouts likely won’t occur until the fall.
“Until that is done, we are in a bit of a holding pattern in terms of reaching out and talking to anyone, really, because we don’t know yet how this is going to work depending on the number of teams and schedules,” Gale explained. “That stuff still has to be finalized by the league.
“So, what we’re doing now is making sure that in the meantime, we are out in the community building the brand and letting people know that professional soccer is coming and that is going to be bigger and on a far-more reaching scale than it ever has been in our province.
“We know that with the infrastructure, the ownership group and what’s happening at the corporate level in terms of taking sponsorships, kit packages, and everything else, that this will be the highest level of Tier 1 soccer that we’ve ever had in Canada.”
All of this isn’t to say Gale hasn’t been rolling around roster-building ideas. His work as a coach with Canada’s Under-20, Under-17 and Under-16 teams dating back to 2010 means he already has an extensive network in place.
At the same time, Gale has established a player data base that will help in the pursuit of talent for a league whose mantra is ‘by Canadians, for Canadians.’
“What we’ve developed within the league is an identification tracking, monitoring system and other processes that allow us to continue to update a data base of potential players, not just in Canada, but internationally as well, that would qualify,” said Gale.
“With the (team) announcements and people now realizing the extent of the league I’ve been getting many, many calls, e-mails and text messages per day from players seeking opportunities.
“The internal Canadian content is absolutely vital because there will be a stipulation on that number and we expect the starting 11 to have a certain quota of Canadians you have to have. That international market is always going to be there. You also have to rely on your own local contacts to help find the kind of player, in terms of background and style of football you want to play.”
“We have to focus on Canadians and with my knowledge of the 15-26 year olds that I’ve been working with for the last nine years, I have a good idea of who would be available to this league.”
Gale said that he also hopes to announce the Valour FC support staff – assistant coaches, etc. – once the CPL has finalized budgets. The more people on board locally, after all, the more voices there are available to spread the word and build the brand.
“I’ve reached out and had conversations with people to gauge their interest and the potential to bring them on board,” he said. “Once we get the green light (from the CPL), we’re hoping to make announcements on that very shortly because the more staff we have able to go and look at players and help build the brand, the better.
“We want to get them on board as quickly as possible. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but this process is already so exciting.”