He’s Canada’s reigning player of the year. He was named Mississauga’s male athlete of the year. And he was a high-profile signing for English side Norwich City in the off-season.
And, at 23, striker Simeon Jackson is the new poster boy for soccer in Canada, as he is sure to be a constant in the lineup for coach Stephen Hart from this Saturday’s coming friendly with Peru at BMO Field up to the qualification process for the 2014 World Cup.
For Jackson and the Canadian team, this Saturday’s friendly with Peru is the first step on the road to Brazil 2014, even though CONCACAF has yet to discuss how it plans to revamp the qualifying process for the region. If Canada wants to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1986, Hart needs to know how he can use his players — and which players are willing to play for him.
“This gets us on the path where we get into setup, so when the time comes you are at your best,” Jackson said at a press conference at a Yorkville hotel Thursday.
Two weeks ago, Jackson, scored his first goal for Norwich, the insurance goal in a 2-0 win at home over Swansea City. While Jackson isn’t playing for the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester United, he was Norwich’s high-profile off-season signing. To fans of the Canaries, he’s as significant to them as David Villa would be to Barcelona; he could be the piece that could lead them to promotion to the Premiership.
After all, Blackpool was promoted this past season, so why not Norwich in 2010-11? It’s already been discussed in the Canaries’ dressing room.
So, to get that goal was a massive monkey off his back.
“It was a big moment for me,” Jackson said. “It was definitely big for me to get that goal at home. It was 1-0 when I scored; we needed that goal to make sure of the win.”
And he enjoys the pressure of being a team’s celebrity signing.
“There is pressure, especially when a club spends big money in you in this economic climate. As a striker, I need to take that pressure and turn it into positive energy.”
But, ironically, Jackson’s future with the Canadian team might not be as a striker; Hart talked to him during the team’s training camp this week in Alliston, Ont. and suggested that he might want to use him as a winger, where he could us his speed to run defenders ragged. Jackson said he’d welcome the challenge — and would play wherever Hart thought he’d best serve the team.
It’s a refreshing story, especially when Canadian fans hear stories of other young forwards, like Kansas City Wizards forward Teal Bunbury and Blackburn Rovers’ attacking midfielder Junior Hoilett, who turn down invites from the country because they feel they need to establish themselves with their clubs.
For Hart, this Saturday’s game against Peru and Tuesday’s match with Honduras in Montreal aren’t all about the final scores. He wants players to get in a rhythm, to understand what will be needed from them when the games begin to matter again.
Because the national team has little time to practise, and it’s difficult for players based in Europe to commute back and forth between Canada and where their clubs are located, each game is a building block.
“What we learned from the World Cup is that even some of the best minds in charge of the some of the best teams, players needed to be playing at their best,” said Hart.
“Offensively they are a very nice team,” said Hart. “They can be a very difficult team to play against.”