WINNIPEG – Just as goalkeepers stick together both on and off the field, those tasked with scoring the goals for Valour FC are also finding plenty of common ground between them.
English striker Stephen Hoyle and his Scottish counterpart Calum Ferguson roomed together on Valour’s pre-season trip to the Dominican Republic. They found some similarities discussing their upbringing in the U.K. and from there friendship has formed. And, after Hoyle scored the first goal in Valour history against Pacific FC, it was Ferguson who cheered the loudest on the sideline.
“We got to know each other well down in the Dominican,” Ferguson told CanPL.ca. “It was good to hear a familiar accent.”
The newly-founded friendship has created a healthy rivalry in the Valour camp, as Hoyle and Ferguson are likely competing for the same spot in head coach Rob Gale’s starting eleven.
But even with that competition, there is plenty of respect between them.
“Calum is a fantastic professional,” Hoyle said. “You would struggle to find someone that looks after themselves as well as him.”
That’s quite the sentiment from the older Hoyle, who has been looked to around the locker room as a veteran player. Only two years separate Hoyle (26) and Ferguson (24) though, and the elder striker makes it clear the pair are learning from each other every day.
“Consistently he’s going to be in the gym and doing the right things away from the pitch,” Hoyle said, adding that Ferguson is one of the fittest players in the squad. “He takes his recovery serious too and I see him doing these little things and I’ll go sit beside him and see what’s up.”
Ferguson, on the other hand, keeps a keen eye on Hoyle’s ability on the field. He’s hoping to learn something from the newcomer that found the net 40 times over 84 games in New Zealand.
“He’s been around, done it all and has the experience,” Ferguson said. “For me, it’s a chance to learn and to push him, we push each other and keep the competitive edge going.”
It’s the kind of competition that the two think will only make their team better, no matter whose name is pencilled into the lineup.
Should Ferguson work his way into a starting role, it doesn’t mean he’s taking Hoyle’s place. Rob Gale has several options for each position along the forward line. For Hoyle, the best case scenario would see him and Ferguson play together.
“If both me and Calum deserve to start, I’m sure we will start,” he said.
As for the days where one of them gets in over the other, Hoyle says it’s part of the game.
“I want to play every minute and score the goals for Valour Football Club but there’s going to be a need for a lot of bodies during the season and you have to be ready,” Hoyle said. “I played on a team where I was the third choice striker, the others weren’t playing well, I came in and start scoring and that’s that, you have to take your chance when you get it.”
Take his chance is exactly what Ferguson hopes to do. His first year in Canada is an opportunity to establish himself as a pro after a bit of a stop-start career. Since leaving Scottish club Inverness Caledonian Thistle in 2016, injuries got in the way. Now, he just wants to be an every day professional again.
“My goal is to play as many games as possible, play my way into the starting eleven and enjoy my football,” Ferguson said. “I would love to play every week and score a lot of goals.”
As in any sport, the one scoring the goals is going to get plenty of attention, especially when creating moments that will hopefully live in Canadian Premier League lore. But it is off the field the duo of Hoyle and Ferguson have already come to the rescue. Valour FC Head coach Rob Gale praised the pair for volunteering with laundry duty on the pre-season trip. Who says goalscorers don’t like to get dirty?
“Seriously it was the bare minimum,” Hoyle said, deciding to come clean when asked to elaborate on his and Ferguson’s heroism. And in true hero fashion, their destiny was chosen for them.
“We just had the nicer apartment with laundry machines – the team needs a kit washing, we have the machines, they get washed.”
While unorthodox, it’s just another opportunity to build chemistry. As an upstart club, Ferguson knows that any time together is going to help Valour FC become a team.
“It’s good for us to get to know each other, see how we all play and form the strikers union together.”