FC Edmonton announced on Monday that Jeff Paulus will not be continuing in his role as head coach, with a search for his replacement to begin immediately.
Paulus will remain at FC Edmonton in a new capacity, being named the Manager of Player Development. He’ll oversee the FCE academy system, working primarily with training youth talent while also providing analytical help to the first team and consult with other club staff in regards to future roster construction.
The news comes after FC Edmonton finished at the bottom of the first-round table in the 2020 CPL season, drawing one and losing six of their seven games in Prince Edward Island.
“Jeff has been the heart and soul of this club for many years, and has dedicated himself to it,” FCE owner Tom Fath said in a statement. “We recognize this, and for it we give our sincere, heartfelt thanks to him.
“For his many years of good, loyal service, as well as for his proven ability to develop young players, it was important for us to find a way to keep Jeff, so he could continue to contribute his great talents to the club. We just agreed that now is good time to find a new head coach to lead the first team.”
A native of Scarborough, Ont., Paulus was with the Eddies as head coach for both of their seasons in the CPL, and he had been coaching in the club’s academy since 2011 prior to joining the new league for its inaugural year in 2019.
“I’ll just accept responsibility that that little piece could be me at the end of the day,” Paulus told reporters after the Eddies’ game against Valour FC in August.
“I’ve been here since December of 2011, and yeah, I love the club. Of course. But the reality is, though, I want this club to succeed, and right now we think we’ve got a better roster than where we are in the standings shows. If it takes someone else coming in with a new voice to get this club and this group of the players over the top, then I’m just open to that.”
Paulus added in a statement on Monday: “I want to thank Tom and Dave Fath for providing me the opportunity to work in professional football for nine years and lead this club into the Canadian Premier League
“I am looking forward to new opportunities and will continue to support this club as best I can in a role that really feeds my passion for player development.”
Paulus was widely respected among the league’s other coaches, including his Al Classico rival, Cavalry coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.
“Jeff was a great founding forefather of the CPL coaching community. He knows what the growth of Canadian football means and has put his skin in the game at all levels to emphasize this. He was passionate about the development of local young Canadians and was as competitive as they come when playing his teams,” Wheeldon Jr. told CanPL.ca.
“I’ll certainly miss his pre- and post-game quips along with his good natured banter. I’m sure he will remain an important fixture in developing the next generation of Canadian players.”
Paulus was also well-liked by members of the media who cover the CPL.
“Want to extend a congratulations to Jeff Paulus for his professionalism and mantra: To always do right by his players and community. He understood the complete role of a CPL manager in the way he approached the job, including his ability to advocate for the sport in Canada,” OneSoccer pundit Kurt Larson posted on Twitter.
OneSoccer commentator Adam Jenkins added: “We will miss seeing you on the touchline but I’m very glad to see you’re staying involved with the club. Thanks for always being a class act and a pleasure to work with. All the best in your new role.”
Edmonton-based reporter Steve Sandor has covered the team dating back to its days in the NASL before it joined the CPL in 2019, and he developed a good rapport with Paulus over the years.
“Jeff is one of the preeminent teachers of the game in Canada. (He’s) also the most quotable personality in Canadian soccer. Funny thing is he told me when he was promoted to the job that he wasn’t likely to be that quotable,” Sandor told CanPL.ca.
“Jeff was so exceptionally loyal to Alberta players. They weren’t the reason FCE struggled (this season). Really, you look at some of the vets who were brought in and it didn’t work out as planned.”