VANCOUVER (Reuters) - John Herdman had a choice to make in 2013 — continue as the head coach of Canada and guide them to a Women’s World Cup on home soil or return home with the goal of taking charge of the England side.
The 39-year-old made his decision and on Saturday will lead out Canada against his homeland in a tasty quarter-final showdown at B.C. Place.
The ever-smiling Englishman said two years ago he was intrigued by the possibility of coaching his home country and would listen to any offers put to him.
A few weeks later, though, he signed a four-year contract extension with the Canadian Soccer Association that will see him remain in charge of the women’s national team through 2020.
For Herdman, the choice was based as much on quality of life as career goals and he dismissed any suggestion that his close links to both countries would provide added motivation for anyone on Saturday.
“You just have to look out your window in B.C. and see the mountains and the lakes and the sunshine,” he said following a training session on Wednesday.
“Where would you rather be? Where would you want your kids to grow up?
“The reality is all we are thinking about is beating a team. That’s it.
“There is nothing else going into this. There is no emotion around who we are playing just the clarity of, ‘girls we’ve got to be at our very best this weekend, here’s your time’.
“Let’s do it.”
If Herdman had landed the England job it would have taken his coaching career full circle.
With limited prospects at home, Herdman took his skills on the road in 2003 with successful stops in New Zealand, where he led the Football Ferns to two World Cup appearances, and Canada, who he guided to a surprise bronze at the 2012 London Olympics.
On Wednesday, dressed in a Team Canada shirt as crisp as it was when it came out of its wrapper and with not a hair out of place, Herdman’s appearance reflected his reputation as a meticulous coach.
Intense, organized and with a tireless work ethic, the native of north east England’s “Geordieland” inspires great loyalty from his players and he has developed bonds with the Canada players that are not easily broken.
“I think he had such a big plan for Canadian Soccer Association that he was just scratching the surface
and he wanted to put more work into it,” veteran Canadian forward Melissa Tancredi told Reuters.
“I couldn’t see him abandoning that kind of work. He is not that kind of person.
“This is where he saw his future. It motivates us even more to do things for us and our country.”