In January, the Whitecaps announced that U18 coach Gordon Forrest, a Scotsman, would be joining Welsh manager Carl Robinson in the technical area. Two weeks later, Englishman Martyn Pert was brought on board.
Try as we may, we were unable to find a place to take a wager on an Irishman joining the coaching staff, but we’re still holding out the hope that Andy O’Brien will eventually become a player-coach.
Rounding out the staff are Norwegian goalkeeper coach Marius Røvde, who returns for his fourth season with the club, and new Strength and Conditioning coach Jon Poli, a Canadian.
In the past, we’ve brought you the insights of Carl Robinson (Everyone knows that anyone can beat anyone) and Marius Røvde (Getting to know Marius Røvde), as well as a number of former members of the coaching staff. Now we bring you a window into the life of Gordon Forrest.
"First and foremost, it’s an honour to work alongside Carl," said Forest. We asked him about his initial thoughts on his new role with the club. "It’s exciting because of the number of young players that we have in the environment now. We’ve got group that touched the first team last year" like Kekuta Manneh, Eric Hurtado, Gershon Koffie, and Russell Teibert.
"Then we’ve got a batch in the residency that are exciting as well," such as Sam Adekugbe, Marco Bustos, Kianz Froese, and Jackson Farmer. "And from the recent draft, there’s another group of young players that are in the fixture for that opportunity."
Tellingly, Christian Dean (3rd), Andre Lewis (7th), and Mamadou Diouf (30th) are listed with in senior squad, while Michael Kafari (51st), Mackenzie Pridham (58th), and Adam Mena (48th in 2013) are "MLS Draftees".
"We’re looking at what we’ve got to work with. Young players are exciting. They’re always hungry. And to have them in the environment when they are, it’s great for the sessions and their development, working with the older, experienced players as a core as well."
With players expected to be in college, on loan, and in Charleston, we were curious how the club will address their needs. "We have a system within the club to track all our players, formalising that link with Charleston, making sure that we’re monitoring them in games, training, and how they’re performing."
"We’ve got staff who’ll track our college players" like Brody Huitema, Ben McKendry, and Sean Melvin, "and then we’ve got players that are potentially on loan." Caleb Clarke is still on loan with FC Augsburg II, having come on as a substitute for the last 29 minutes of a scoreless draw with SV Heimstetten.
The important thing is that "there’s a process and procedure in place. We need to give everyone the best attention to detail we can with the resources we have. Some of these guys still have plans. We’ll get footage sent to them, hopefully we’ll get out to games, but there is a definite communication between all these different opportunities for players."
When asked which youngster he thought would make the biggest impact this year, he smiled, laughed, and scratched the back of his head, before offering "that’s probably a good question, and one that I don’t want to put my hand on anyone. All I can say is it’s exciting to have the number of young players we do have."
Smiling some more, he added that "it’s early days to give you an answer on that. I know a lot of these young boys inside out, so I’ve got my thoughts on them, but they’ve got to come into a first team environment."
He cautioned that "maybe it’s a little bit different. We’ll see how they grow in there, how they progress, how they play, and how confident they are in that. We’ll give them every opportunity and as much support as we can."
When we mentioned the progress of Sam Adekugbe, his eyes lit up. "Sam for me is a role model for young players. If you want to pick someone out, he came into the program, developed, progressed, really worked hard, really worked hard, came into the first team environment, didn’t look out of place, came in quite confident, and then he finished it off in the last game of the season with a really good performance."
"We’re excited about Sam. He’s got a long way to go. But he’s got a great opportunity to keep developing, getting more minutes on the field, hopefully this season."
Having worked in Scotland, Iceland, New Zealand, and Canada, we were curious where Gordon saw himself in the future, but as we expected, he took it in stride. "It’s just an honour to be involved as a coach."
"I’m always looking to develop and progress. It’s a great opportunity to work alongside Martyn Pert and Carl Robinson, and with the players that we have here."
"In football, you can’t say where you’re going to end up, but from my point of view it’s head down, work hard, and make sure we’re working with the players and developing, especially the young boys as well."
And with Gordon Forrest and the rest of the coaching staff, the future of the Whitecaps is in safe hands. They’ve even been looking at ways to find the extra minutes that are vital to the development of young players.
"Because we’re not involved in the reserve fixtures, we’ll have players in different places, on loan, Charleston, U18 fixtures, and we get a number of requests. We’ll also look to source fixtures to fit into the schedule to keep everyone in a good space."
He went on to list the Simon Fraser Clan, British Columbia Thunderbirds, Victoria Vikes, Portland Pilots, Seattle Sounders FC, and Portland Timbers FC. Vancouver heads to Victoria this Saturday, and on Monday, FC Edmonton announced that they would be coming to Vancouver in April.
"We’ll have a schedule in place to make sure the guys are getting enough minutes." It looks like things are already going well.
And lastly, given everything that’s going on with the new coaching staff, the club in its fourth year of Major League Soccer, and the 40th anniversary celebrations, we asked him what would represent a successful year for him.
"That’s a good question as well," he said as he collected his thoughts. "We’ve got to make sure we’re well organised, that we play a model to what we want to do, and we’ve got to see that come alive on the field. We’ll put a lot of effort in with the players, and hopefully we can get the results on the field and we have a good season."
We hope so too, Gordon, we hope so too.