TORONTO — Scott Firth was available for an interview during evenings and weekends.
He wasn’t trying to save money on his phone bill. Firth, who does not turn 18 years old until March, is a Lockview High School student by day and a professional soccer player in his, well, off-hours..
Raised in Windsor Junction, 20 minutes north of Halifax, the new HFX Wanderers signing is one of the Canadian Premier League’s youngest players.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Firth told CanPL.ca. “Once training starts, it will really sink in that this is happening.”
You can’t blame him for needing some time to digest.
Before the CPL came to life last year, Firth was planning to attend a local university after graduating high school. He has enjoyed training stints with famous Portuguese clubs Sporting CP and Benfica in recent years — Sporting told him he was welcome back any time — but his focus was turning to education.
“It’s a big commitment to go to Portugal,” Firth said. “I was more focused on school, because that leads to employment. But once this league was announced and a Halifax team was announced, I knew that there was potential. I really had to try to push to try to make it.”
Fortunately, whenever Firth has had an opportunity to impress influential onlookers, he has taken it.
At 16, he played against 18-year-olds at the Canada Games in Winnipeg. Nova Scotia, whose team also featured Toronto FC youngster Jacob Shaffelburg, were knocked out by eventual winners Ontario on penalties but perhaps more important than results was the opportunity Firth had to play in front of Stephen Hart, who dropped in for a couple of training sessions.
Hart, of course, was to eventually take charge of the Wanderers and Firth is even more familiar with one of his assistants, Michael Hunter.
He credits Hunter, the former technical director of Soccer Nova Scotia, with making a “big impact” on his development at a key time. Hart recalled last month that while he was still the coach of Trinidad & Tobago, Hunter went out of his way to send him a video of Firth.
“He really made me understand the fundamentals of being a centre midfielder,” Firth said of Hunter’s influence. “Usually, with (youth) clubs, it’s not position-specific — it’s more team-oriented and basic.”
The lack of an elite youth club in Nova Scotia from which players can be drawn from is a challenge Hart is wrestling with as he builds his first roster.
DEFYING THE ODDS
Just by getting this far, Firth has defied the odds. He had no particular family background in soccer — his mother played basketball and his father preferred hockey and softball — but was signed up for the Scotia Soccer Club at five years-old. Since 12, he has played for Suburban FC.
“They decided to be a soccer family,” Firth recalled. “It’s completely new.
“I think around the time that we went to Portugal the first time is when we thought, ‘maybe’,” he added of the possibility of making a career out of the sport.
Firth is not here, though, to bask in the improbability of his first contract and enjoy the view from the sideline.
“I’m gonna have to fight for field time but with that 1,000 minutes rule (for under-21 players), that’s obviously very promising,” he said. “I’m not necessarily going to be riding the bench all the time. (To) try to fight for a starting place — that’s the goal.”
That he falls perfectly into the group of young Canadians that will be peaking by the time the 2026 World Cup comes around is not lost on him, either.
“That’s definitely something I’m thinking (about),” Firth admitted. “I’m 17 right now — 2026 is seven years away. That’s pretty much perfect timing and we have a spot because we’re hosting, so it’s kind of a perfect situation.”