Canadians Elsewhere Special: Alan Mannus

13mannusTalented 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 olhqdefault.jpgder 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?mannus

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 alan-mannus.jpgever 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.

Charlie Trafford

CIMG_5982harlie Trafford is a midfielder who recently signed with Korona Kielce of Poland’s Ekstraklasa. After debuting in 2013, Trafford emerged as the most talked about Canadian playing in Finland’s top flight since Tosaint Ricketts. Over three seasons and stints with IFK Mariehamn, TPS and KuPS, scored 10 goals in 61 league games and won KuPS’ Golden Boot for the 2015 season. On October 13th, Trafford earned his first cap for Canada playing against Ghana. We spoke with Trafford over email about his move to Korona Kielce, the reputation of the Finland’s top flight, the MLS, NASL and his cousin Mason.

SSPC: Recently, you joined Korona Kielce of the Poland’s Ekstraklasa. What lead to the move?

CT: After 2 years in Finland I knew it was time for a move. Nothing but good things to say about Finland, and loved it there. But I knew it was time to make the move. I was ready for a new adventure, and for my football career ready for the next level. My agent, Ireneusz Hurwicz, presented me this option. I had options in a few countries but with family here in Poland and a polish passport this felt like the right move.trafford_charlie

SSPC: According to the most recent UEFA coefficient rankings, Poland’s league is 19th in Europe while Finland’s is only ranked 37th. Does that increase in league strength make you nervous?

CT: Nervous isn’t the right word. I would say excited for the challenge would be a better to describe the feeling. You have to believe in yourself and believe you can play at this level. But at the same time I know it’s a step up, and I need to keep my head down and work my socks off. Add the things to my game and fine tune the rest to make sure I can play at this level and continue to move forward.

SSPC: Korona Kielce are currently about halfway through their season and chasing a European spot. How to you think you’ll fit into the team this season?

CT: Again, have to believe in yourself. And Anywhere I go I want to make a positive impact on the club and want to play. I come to win and do whatever I can to do so. So that’s the goal. But I know it’s going to be a lot of work and just have to keep developing and try to enjoy this journey.

SSPC: As said earlier, the move from Finland to Poland will see you playing against stronger competition. Are you expecting to see an increase in Canadian men’s team call-ups?

CT: I definitely hope that puts me in a spot to be picked every camp with IMG_2497-1040x572the national team. But wouldn’t say I’m expecting it. Can’t expect anything in this world. Can’t assume just because I’m signed in a good league that I deserve to be at all the camps. I need to continue to prove myself and continue to develop. And like I said before, just want to make a positive impact every where I go and help my team win. So hopefully the national team gives me the opportunities to do that for them as well.

SSPC: Your national team debut came as a bit of a pleasant surprise to many Canadian supporters who were already excited by the line up for the Ghana game. Were you surprised by the call-up?

CT: Maybe not surprised but unbelievably excited. I knew I was getting close. But you never know how close. I guess I was pleasantly surprised. But was just working hard and trying to play my game and knew the opportunity would come.

SSPC: The Veikkausliiga has become the most popular European top flight for Canadians to play in yet has a mixed history when it comes to producing Canadian national team players. Do you feel Canada has wrongfully overlooked the league when it comes to talent for the national team?

trafford_charles_150529.jpg__1175x725_q85_box-0,107,1349,939_crop_detail_subsampling-2CT: There are definitely some very good players in Finland. It depends on a lot of things getting called up. So can’t say “unfairly overlooked”. Like I said early that doesn’t really matter what league you’re in. Need to continuously prove yourself.

However, Canada needs to have as big of a player pool as they can and players playing there should definitely be on Canada’s radar and followed. Couple players have gotten chances out of Finland, and can see that there definitely is some quality, easy example is Mason Trafford.

SSPC: Your cousin Mason played a key role in your move to Mariehamn. Had he not been there would you of pursued a career in Finland?

CT: Ya. He orchestrated the move. As far as going there without him, you never know where football can take you, but without him there I would say chances are very slim I would have headed towards Finland. Owe a lot to Mason for how the career as developed. Charlie_Trafford2

SSPC: Mason saw a lot of action last season with a very good Ottawa Fury team. Do you hope to get a chance to play along side him with the national team in the near future?

CT: Of course I hope for that. Would be incredible lining up with him. We talk a lot and like I said I owe quite a lot to him and how much he has helped me. We’re really close and celebrating each other’s successes and pushing and encouraging each other. So I hope the best for him and want to see him succeed all the time. And would love to line up along side him anywhere. But boy would it be special doing it for our country.

SSPC: Do you follow the MLS or NASL at all? If so what are your thoughts on them? Would you be interested in playing in one of them?

CT: Ya I follow them quite closely. More the MLS but of course have followed Ottawa’s run all year. Had a few long nights staying up to watch those games.

I think MLS is a very hard league to play in. Very fast with some incredible athletes and some very technical players. The tactics are very different to European teams. But the league is growing fast and is very exciting. I’m loving living in Europe at the moment and have few more plans over here before I head back towards North America. But I like the MLS and what it is doing, so the thought is definitely in my head.

mensoccer_yfileSSPC: Recently, CSA president Victor Montagliani has revealed that the CSA is working towards creating a professional soccer league to operate solely in Canada. Would you be interested in such a league? Much of the speculation about said league included rumours of a CIS draft. As a former CIS player, do you think there is enough talent in the CIS to fuel a strong professional league?

CT: Football in Canada is growing very fast. And it needs to give kids more opportunities there. When kids growing up have to chose between football and hockey, there are clearly so many more opportunities on the hockey side. So the odds of becoming professional athlete are higher that way, so many kids take that route to make the dream come true. So a professional league would definitely be a step in the right direction. Will help develop the whole culture in the country. It is something that will take a lot of time. But it needs to be done and done properly to help the game in Canada. Some amateur clubs, like Foothills, are creating that professional environment. But now more needs to be done to develop the game and give kids all the opportunities.

SSPC: Where do you hope to find yourself in the future?

CT: Have lots of dreams and goals. I’m a down to earth kid, don’t want to look to far ahead. For now I just need to do everything I can to perform at my best for my club. Hopefully in return that lets me represent my country.

And then the obvious one, hopefully one day see me playing at Old Trafford.

But for now I’m just enjoying the journey. It’s a crazy one. My head down and grinding. Lots of work to be done. Want to finish my university degree, that’s very important to me. Be a good person. And hopefully continue to develop and go as far as I can in football. But just need to make sure I don’t stop enjoying it. That’s most important part.

You can follow Charlie on twitter at @ctrafford10 and instagram at @ctrafford10.

Randy Edwini-Bonsu

Randy Edwini-Bonsu is a 25 year old striker currently playing VfR Aalen in Germany’s 1760433.Liga. Born in Ghana, Edwini-Bonsu and his family immigrated to Edmonton in 2002 and he has since played for Canada at various levels and has earned 10 caps for the senior team, scoring his first goal this year against Puerto Rico. At the club level, he’s also played with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Oulu, Eintracht Braunschweig and Stuttgarter Kickers. We spoke with him over email about his development, playing in Europe rather than North America and Canada’s new found scoring depth.

SSPC: Coming up in Alberta, what resources did you find the most useful in helping your development and are you excited by the increased presence of Alberta trained players in the Canadian national program?

REB: I guess discipline. I had a really good youth coach who helped me a lot in that aspect and is nice to see lots of players coming out of Edmonton to represent the national program. And I hope it stays that way and more youth uses that as a motivation.

SSPC: What lead you to pursue playing in Europe back in 2011 rather than joining an MLS or NASL club?

REB: Like every child, playing in Europe for some of the biggest clubs is a dream. And I had the talent and drive for it and after developing in Canada I came to Europe after I thought I was ready for the challenges that comes along

SSPC: Looking back, do you feel your move from the Finnish Second Divsion to Bundesliga 2 happened too quickly?

REB: Not at all. Sometimes changing the environment is always a good thing and I deserved all of it. I was very under estimated in Vancouver and they didn’t see my worth so I had no option but move on. I went to Finland with a good attitude to work and use that as a stepping stone and it payed off. Learned a lot in Braunschweig and I am forever grateful for that opportunity.

SSPC: With the increase of skill Canada is finding itself with in the forward positions, what do you feel is needed to stand out from the rest of the pack?

REB: We have a lot of young goal scorers who are dangerous in front of goal and can almost score at any time. I can say the future is bring but the only thing missing is consistency in front of the goal. If we can improve that I believe we can compete with almost anyone. We certainly have the players for it.Randy+Edwini+Bonsu+2012+CONCACAF+Men+Olympic+3_mLz_HLrUll

SSPC: What do you feel could be done to improve the Canadian program for future generations?

REB: The program has already made a huge step and I honestly think it should stay the way it is now. For the first time we actually have a system in place and its not an overnight thing but we players and the staff just have to keep working together and I believe the fans will see good results soon.