Cavalry FC’s Tommy Wheeldon Jr. wins 2023 CPL Coach of the Year Award

The Canadian Premier League revealed on Thursday that Cavalry FC manager Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has been named the league’s Coach of the Year for the 2023 season.

Wheeldon received the honour at the CPL Awards ceremony in Hamilton, Ont. ahead of this Saturday’s CPL Final between his Cavalry and Forge FC. The 44-year-old from Liverpool, England was voted the best head coach in the 2023 regular season by a selection of media from across the country and representatives from CPL clubs’ technical leadership.

The Cavalry boss beat fellow nominees Patrice Gheisar of Halifax Wanderers FC and Bobby Smyrniotis of Forge FC, winning the award for a second time after first taking it home in 2019. Wheeldon was also nominated for Coach of the Year in 2021, having been at the helm for the Calgary-based club in every year of its existence.

This season, Wheeldon steered Cavalry to the regular season title, as they finished 13 points clear of the rest of the league with 16 wins and 55 points, losing just five matches in the campaign en route to being the first club to lift the brand-new CPL Shield.

In 2023, Cavalry posted one of the most dominant regular seasons since their own 2019 campaign, leading the league in goals scored (46) and conceding the fewest (27). Impressively, they kept their resolve after going winless in a stretch of five consecutive draws to begin the year.

The Cavs ended their regular season in outstanding form, winning their last five matches and riding a nine-game unbeaten run (of which eight matches were victories).

“Tommy is a manager that is a leader first and foremost,” Cavalry captain Marco Carducci told earlier this season. “That’s the type of leadership that I think defines this club. He’s a leader by example, he’s a big culture piece and he sets the standard. I think you see that on the sideline, you see that everywhere.”

Sergio Camargo, another of Cavalry’s original players from 2019, added:

“Tommy and I have built a relationship these last few years on trust and respect, and I think that’s what he gives off and that’s what he demands from all his players. It’s very easy to be loyal to someone like that and to fight every 90 minutes for someone like that.”

As Coach of the Year, Wheeldon was presented with the Owl statue, a unique piece of Inuit soapstone art conceptualized by artist Palaya Qiatsuq.

Wheeldon adds his name again to a list of managers who have won this award, joining 2020 winner Stephen Hart, then of Halifax Wanderers; 2021 winner Pa-Modou Kah, then Pacific FC boss; and last year’s recipient Carlos González of Atlético Ottawa.