Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/12/2018 (1038 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
He may not be a household name around these parts like Mark Scheifele or Matt Nichols. But Stephen Hoyle is determined to change that.
The 26-year-old English striker has inked a two-year contract with Valour FC, becoming the Winnipeg soccer franchise’s first international signing. Hoyle will join the club in March from Canterbury United of the New Zealand Premiership, where he’s been racking up the accolades — and goals — for the past three years.
"I’m going to be honest with you. Since I returned to New Zealand, I’ve been waiting for Canada to get a professional football league. It actually came sooner than I thought it would. This is a place where lifestyle choice and quality of football can come together the way I want it to be," Hoyle said Tuesday in a phone interview.
"Of course it’s challenging to move environments and see something completely new. But sometimes you have to push yourself in this life. I can keep scoring goals in New Zealand until I’m 35, or I can go and try and do it somewhere else."
Hoyle got in touch with Valour FC coach Robert Gale through mutual friends and was able to strike a deal to be part of the 2019 launch of the Canadian Premier League.
"If you’ve ever had a conversation with Rob Gale, he’s pretty infectious. I felt a good connection with him straight away. Just his plans and what he wants to do and how he talks about football aligns with me and my values. It just seemed like a no-brainer to join Winnipeg," Hoyle said.
Hoyle has scored 31 goals in 54 games for the Dragons, while winning the striker of the year and player of the year awards last season. He began his career as part of the English Football Association Academy with his hometown club of Barnsley FC, then joined the Doncaster Rovers, where he was awarded a one-year scholarship to play with the youth team. He went on to attend the University of Stirling in Scotland before going to New Zealand.
"He’s a proven goal scorer with a great work ethic to lead the line and has a natural instinct around goal. He turned down other opportunities to come to Winnipeg, and we’re looking forward to his arrival," Gale said.
Hoyle didn’t know much about Winnipeg beside its reputation as being cold in the winter, but has been studying up, both on the city’s history and the basis for the Valour franchise name.
"Just reading all about the place and the story of Valour itself, it’s pretty unique. It looks like you have a really strong community," he said.
Hoyle said he’s tried to help grow the game in New Zealand, including running a youth soccer academy, and is excited about the opportunity to do the same in this market. Canadian men’s soccer is looking to the CPL as a means of getting back on the international soccer map, and Hoyle wants to be a part of that.
"I know the Canadian boys I’ve met… they all love football, a lot of them are family of immigrants, they all want to play. I think the culture there, the players can make it a really big thing. Now, kids don’t have to leave — they can hopefully look up to players like me," he said.
"I know it’s one of your most (popular) sports on the youth and junior stage. You also have talented players. I think football in New Zealand is pretty white, pretty middle class. In Canada, every demographic is playing football. I actually think there’s a lot of talent in Canada, especially young players. Like maybe 14, 15 years old. I don’t think you’ve been able to make that next step yet because you don’t have that environment. I think this league provides that environment."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.