Canada’s highest-profile soccer coach – South Surrey resident John Herdman – is switching jobs.
Herdman, who led Canada’s national women’s soccer team to bronze medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, has left the women’s squad after six years and will now be at the helm of Canada’s men’s team as head coach and national EXCEL director, it was announced earlier this week.
“It’s a great honour to join the men’s national team program and I want to thank Canada Soccer for this opportunity to grow and develop the sport in this country,” Herdman said in a news release issued Monday.
Herdman, originally from England, replaces outgoing men’s team coach Octavio Zambrano, who had been on the job for less than a year. Herdman’s replacement with the women’s program will be his former assistant coach, Kenneth Heiner-Møller.
The coaching shakeup caught many by surprise – including some of Herdman’s players with the national women’s team. Burnaby native Christine Sinclair –the team’s longtime captain who is widely considered to be the best women’s soccer player in the country’s history – tweeted “Speechless right now…” but later deleted the post, and replaced it with another clarifying that she had, contrary to reports, spoken with Herdman prior to the announcement, but was “still shocked and saddened the man who changed soccer in Canada and my life won’t be leading #canWNT any longer.”
Just to clarify, John did speak to me before the announcement was released. Still shocked and saddened the man who changed soccer in Canada and my life won't be leading #canWNT any longer. There is no doubt he will succeed in this next chapter as well. pic.twitter.com/iRTvGiofKA
— Christine Sinclair (@sincy12) January 10, 2018
Another team member, Diana Matheson – whose goal won Canada bronze at the London Olympics in 2012 – also tweeted, then deleted, that she was “Just sad about this one. Wishing John nothing but the best in his next challenge, but still just sad.”
The men’s game will be a new challenge for Herdman, whose coaching history has largely been with women’s teams, especially at the highest levels. Prior to moving to South Surrey to take over the Canadian program, he was the head coach of New Zealand’s national women’s team.
Had he not been given the Canadian men’s team position, it was widely reported that he had offers to coach a handful of professional teams, as well as another national women’s squad abroad.
“Working with Canada Soccer’s women’s program, and the remarkable players and staff who have made the past six years so incredible has been an absolute privilege, and I am confident the team (is)… in excellent hands,” he said.
Herdman will certainly have his hands full as he tries to elevate a Canadian men’s program to the heights that the women reached over his six years. The men’s team is ranked 94th in FIFA world rankings – a stark contrast to the women’s squad, which is fifth.
“It is easy to point to John’s record with Canada to demonstrate his effectiveness as a high-performance coach, in earning back-to-back Summer Olympic medals he’s achieved in team sport something no other coach in Canada has done in over 100 years,” said Canada Soccer general secretary Peter Montopoli.
“What makes him exemplary though, is his work ethic, his passion, his preparation and his attention to detail. We are looking forward to John bringing his expertise to our men’s national team program.”