Talented Canadian born players playing for other nations is something the CSA and Canadian fans have long come to disdain but often the story behind the choice goes unknown and Some Soccer Playing Canadians has decided to explore it. Alan Mannus is a Toronto born keeper putting his talents to work for Scottish Premiership side St. Johnstone. While born in Canada, Mannus has represented Northern Ireland at various levels and is a regular member of the senior team. We spoke with him via email about what factors resulted in him playing for Northern Ireland, Euro 2016 and how Canada fits into his life.
SSPC: To start with the most obvious question. Why did you choice to play for Northern Ireland rather than Canada?
AM: It was never a choice of one over the other, as I never had an opportunity to play for Canada at any level, whereas I had opportunities with Northern Ireland from Under 14 level onwards.
SSPC: While many Canadian fans are aware that you were born in Toronto, not too much is known about you between your birth and joining Linfield’s youth ranks. Would you care to shed a little light on your youth and what is your connection like to Canada today?
AM: My brothers and I were born in Toronto and lived in Mississauga. When i was about 7 my family moved to Northern Ireland, which is where my parents are from. I played for St. Andrews and then Lisburn Youth, and then after that I joined Linfield when I was 16. My older brother, Paul, moved back to Canada about 4 years ago. He lives in Kitchener near Toronto, and I, along with my other brothers Ian and Toby, have been out to visit him every summer since he moved.
SSPC: In the past you’ve said you never take your place on a team for granted. Despite being a regular squad member, has the Northern Ireland Euro qualification added a greater deal of pressure to perform strong this season than in past seasons?
AM: I have been involved in many squads over the last 10 years with Northern Ireland and I, like the other players, want to go to the Euros this summer. But I know it’s not guaranteed. You need to be playing regularly with your club and avoid injuries. Anyone can lose their place or get injured so that’s why I don’t take it for granted. I know that any game can be my last. I haven’t really looked as far ahead as the Euros as anything can happen (good or bad) from now until then.
SSPC: You made the jump from the League of Ireland, which you’ve called a “part time” league, to the Scottish Premiership in 2011. Was it a difficult move to adjust to?
AM: Although we were on part time contracts, there was still a full time mentality. The training was somewhere between part and full time. I don’t think it was difficult to adjust to the move, but it was a bit of a step up to the Scottish Premiership.
SSPC: You mentioned earlier having never gotten the chance to play for Canada. Did the CSA or then Canadian coach Frank Yallop ever make contact?
AM: No, I have never been contacted about it. When you contacted me for this interview I was surprised that you knew about me.
SSPC: Canadian fans often express a lot of “what ifs” in regards to players who are eligible to play for Canada but end up with another nation. Do you ever get “what if feelings”?
AM: Not really, you cant change the past. My life and football career couldn’t have been better so I wouldn’t change anything.