On Saturday, April 18 Under The Cosh travelled to the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan to meet Paul Stalteri.
Stalteri, who retired in 2013, is Canada’s most-capped player, captained his country on 30 occasions, and was in the Canadian team that won the Gold Cup in 2000. In terms of his club career, he started locally with the Toronto Lynx before moving on to Werder Bremen, Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham and Borussia Mönchengladbach.
We were told that Paul would be coaching a kids’ team that afternoon, and we arrived half an hour early to catch some of the session. We were pleasantly surprised and excited to see the technical standard at which some of the children were playing. Noticeable immediately was that the kids were playing on a size-appropriate pitch, with a size appropriate ball and small goals. They kept possession, passed out from the back, kept their shape pretty well…and none looked older than eight or nine years old. They didn’t panic in possession, nor complain when their coaches paused the game on occasion to adjust their positioning or impart some knowledge. These kids were having fun but also continuously learning, and that was impressive. It was obviously a small sample size, but if youth coaching is being applied like this more broadly, it does bode well for the development of the Canadian game.
Having been greeted and shown around by Paul’s affable wife, Christina, we set up our equipment, did our own hair and make-up and waited for Paul’s arrival. Let us tell you, the man has a handshake firmer than Sky’s grip on Premier League television rights. Below is the full audio interview followed by video highlights. Below that, for those who prefer reading, you’ll find some of Paul’s most interesting statements.
Paul Stalteri on:
The Canadian national team: “We have a challenging environment, a challenging country where for six months of the year especially in Ontario and Quebec it’s difficult to play, especially for the young kids. You have to have facilities like this
Hargreaves, Begovic, Hoilett, Jonathan De Guzman etc. “All these guys besides Junior Hoilett have played with big European countries which enables them to have individually more of a successful career. In Europe the travel’s a lot easier so there’s a number of factors that lean that way. Obviously with the four of them in our national team for the last number of years, would we have been that much better? I mean, obviously. It’s unfortunate that’s the way it is but you’re never going to stop that.”
What a trial entails “It’s different than a lot of people think. You hear a lot of times “he’s going over for a two-week trial”…99.9% of the time that doesn’t really exist…especially with the clubs I played with…some guys will come in for a session and then they’re out the door…they’re just not good enough, they’re not going to waste their time watching for another week.”
Highlight of 03/04 Bundesliga winning season: “We beat Munich in Munich to win the title. We were under pressure a little bit, leading the campaign from very early on and we had a big gap on Bayern and they managed to just pull it back to within six points going into that game with only about four to go, so if we lose that we’re down to three [points] and then we’ve got a tough game at home against Leverkusen, and a couple of tough road games as well after that. We were 3-0 up after 40 minutes so that was without doubt the most special moment of the 2003/2004 championship.”
‘Lasagna-gate’: “I don’t know what happened at the hotel. It probably wasn’t a lasagne but one thing gets out and it goes from there, but we definitely had a lot of players ill at the time and we definitely weren’t at full strength.”
Martin Jol: “He’s a great guy, a fantastic person, great coach, did really well with the club but he is definitely a good guy and a fun guy to be around”.
Ledley King: “He very rarely trained. He was the best defender I ever played with. He was a machine, built like a brick house, and fast, and no weakness, he was one of the very few players I played with that had literally no weakness whatsoever.”
Pochettino’s first season with Tottenham: “Hopefully they stick with the manager and don’t make another change…I don’t see that in the summer anyways, but they need to stick with somebody for the next two to three years and allow them to put a long-term plan into play.”
“Losing Bale was a big blow for them that year, they’re still re-bounding from that…they’ve got a couple of transfers they probably regret but that’s every club.”
*That* goal, for Spurs: “It was a great goal. One thing with the English which is great is that they never forget what players do for their clubs in big moments and big games, and they remember the history of their club and their players for a long time. It was a fantastic game, London derby, and we came out on top of a game that at the end of the season was voted best game of the year.”
Why Jermain Defoe didn’t work out in Toronto: “I think Jermain has always found it difficult outside of London, to play. He’s grown up in London, he played in a couple of different London teams, a long time at Tottenham and it was always going to be difficult for Jermain outside of London. I know he was in Portsmouth, but he still lived in London at the time so he was commuting back and forth. So he was always going to find it difficult outside of London, and in Canada it was that much harder for him to settle in.”
- Best goalkeeper played with: Craig Forrest
- Best defender played with: Ledley King
- Best midfielder played with: Johan Micoud
- Best striker: Couldn’t decide.
- Best player played against: Cristiano Ronaldo & Martin Petrov
Many thanks to Paul Stalteri for his time, and Christina Stalteri for arranging the interview.