Forbes happy to have chance to prove himself with Valour FC
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Some might say he was thrown away. For Billy Forbes, Valour FC was a second life and a place to feel valued.
Forbes had always wanted to play in Canada.
The 31-year-old’s first flight away from his home in Turks and Caicos was to Vancouver as a 17-year-old to take part in the Whitecaps Residency Program (now known as Whitecaps FC Academy).
“Growing up in Turks, we have a lot of Canadians there… so from that time, I’ve been in love with Canada and I’ve always wanted to come back and play,” Forbes said.
That doesn’t mean Forbes would change the path he’s taken.
A journeyman throughout the soccer ranks across North America, he sees his profession as a chance to enjoy new cultures.
In fact, Forbes said he’s gone out of his way to sign nothing more than two-year contracts to afford himself the flexibility to travel more or easily move on from a team should he feel the need.
“I’m from a small country. I’m more about the experience and learning,” he said. “I like to travel, I like to see how other people are living, so if I can use the sport I love to do that, then that’s what I’ll do.”
That, in part, is why when Forbes got a call to go north, it was a no-brainer.
Forbes started the year in the USL Championship soccer league as a member of the Detroit City FC, a team he joined weeks before the 2022 season was set to kick off.
A known finisher with more than 40 goals under his belt, entering his eighth year as a pro, Forbes hoped to prove he was still the winger coaches once coveted.
It wouldn’t go that way, though. The Providenciales native injured his hamstring days before the season started, delaying his debut in the Motor City.
His tumultuous season continued, as Forbes found little stability in the lineup even when he became healthy.
Meanwhile, Valour had sent breakout attacker William Akio to Scottish Premiership side Ross County FC.
The team, looking to push for a playoff spot, now had a hole in its lineup, and head coach and manager Phillip Dos Santos knew where to go look for help.
Dos Santos coached against Forbes for four years during his time in the USL Championship and North American Soccer League. The only difference now was Forbes was 31 years old, leaving the coach with a lone reservation about the player: did he still have the fire?
“He always had those qualities, he was a threat behind the opposition, he was very good in and around the box and always that electric player,” said Dos Santos.
“My question to him was: ‘do you still love it? Do you want to help us win?’”
A resounding “yes” sealed the deal, and on July 21, Forbes was on his way back to Canada.
“It was kind of like a second life because when I was injured, I couldn’t play as much as I would’ve liked so when coach reached out it was perfect timing for me to come and prove myself all over again,” Forbes said.
“Coach Phil has given me the freedom going forward to just express myself and be myself on the field.”
Dos Santos said his coaching staff was an ideal unit for Forbes at this point in his career.
“Some older players need to be in an environment where they feel… valued. It’s easy to motivate young players. For older players, sometimes its ‘I’ve been there, I’ve done it, I’ve been around a little bit,’ so you need to push the right buttons.”
“Sometimes it’s just making sure that you light that fire again, and I think Billy is a player that needs to feel valued. Everywhere he’s been, he’s been a player of high-value.”
Forbes showed that value immediately while donning his new kit.
In his third appearance with Valour, Forbes looked like the best player on the pitch at times, repeatedly threatening the York United FC defence with flashy moves while keeping the Winnipeg faithful on the edge of their seats every time he touched the ball.
His efforts were finally rewarded in the second half when he moved the ball toward the middle of the pitch, just outside the penalty box, before finding a pushing Sean Rea, who buried the match’s opening goal.
Forbes would show his own knack for finding the back of the net, later on, settling a lofted volley from Rea, who sprung the streaking winger on a breakaway. Forbes wired his shot to the top right corner of the net as two defenders closed on him, giving Valour the insurance goal and drawing the team within five points of a playoff spot.
The kid from Turks and Caicos, a land of roughly 40,000 people, now has the chance he’s coveted for 14 years and is determined to prove he’s still among the best.
Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.
Updated on Thursday, August 11, 2022 6:10 AM CDT: Amends wording regarding William Akio