Interview With Ex Whitecap And Dynamo Goalie, Tony Caig.

Published: Mar 21, 2014 14:01pm EDT
By Jason Bardwell, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Mar 21, 2014 @ 05:04pm EDT

 

Born in Cumbria, England Tony Caig has plied his trade in four different countries. Now goalkeeping coach at the club where it all started Tony has taken time out to talk to me about his time in America, those penalty saves at Wembley and more.

 

JB: Lets start off where it all began, Carlisle. You were at the club for almost all of the 1990's and now find yourself back there in a coaching capacity. How much has the club changed from the one you left all those years ago?

TC: The club has changed a lot from when I left , it was actually a 10 year gap . I was a young player coming through the ranks to play in the first team and we had some very good seasons with titles, promotions, cup finals but also a couple of relegations so safe to say it wasn't boring.....The fan base is fairly similar apart from that we probably averaged 2,000 more spectators at home games through the 90's so that's something we would like to get back to if possible.

I'm now on the coaching staff so my role is very different but with the same goals as when I played and that's to try and gain some success and play attractive football.

 

JB: With your form for Carlisle, and the LDV Vans penalty saves to help your team lift the trophy at Wembley in 1997, how much of a surprise was it to be told you could leave the following year?

TC: It was a strange time at the club with the then owner Michael Knighton, I was out of contract at the end of the 98/99 season and wanted to sign a new contract but trying to sit and actually talk this through was really difficult. When Blackpool FC made the club an offer on transfer deadline the owner gave me permission to talk to them so that kind of told me what he was thinking. Once it was public Blackpool were trying to sign me a couple of other clubs came in but I'd given my word to the Blackpool manager that if Carlisle wouldn't make me an offer then I would sign with them which us what happened .

It wasn't a really big surprise to me that I left as most of the promotion winning team from the previous year had been sold on and I was one of the last ones remaining .

 

JB: You did make a Premier League appearance while at Charlton Athletic in a 2-1 win against Derby County. Then you moved north of the boarder to Hibernian before returning to Newcastle United. Of all the clubs you were at, who would you say was the Manager you learnt most from?

TC: I was lucky to play for a few high profile and successful managers but I think the one that stands out is Sir Bobby Robson from when I was at Newcastle United. He made you feel you were a big part of the club and his enthusiasm for the games and training was fantastic for a guy in his 70's, he also showed me from a coaching point of view that you need your fellow staff to help you and he was big on that . A true legend of the game.

 

JB: In 2006 you played in a third country when you signed for, then USL club, Vancouver Whitecaps. There you won the Championship and broke the clean sheet record. You only spent a year there before returning to England for non football reasons. How much did you enjoy your time in Canada?

TC: I really loved my time in Vancouver and would've loved to gave stayed for a long time, a really great city. My wife's Mother and Father were quite ill so we made a family decision to return home. After discussions with Vancouver it was agreed I could return home, but Vancouver didn't deal too well with the whole situation after that. That was their call trying to look after their interests as they were losing their no1 goalkeeper after winning a championship and we were top of the league in that next season. 

All I could do was look after my wife and children which is a 100 times more important to me than football. It was great to win the USL and personally achieve something, we had a good team and a manager who knew how he wanted us to play and didn't compromise.

I made some good friends out there and I've been back a couple of times since to do some coaching.
 

JB: Yes, you were back in America a few months later having signed for the Houston Dynamo playing in the CONCACAF Semi Final and also MLS. What is your opinion on the MLS and the standard of competition when you were there compared to what you see now?

TC: After returning home, and a few months later, I planned to sign for Gretna FC in the SPL but they went into financial trouble just as I had agreed a contract so it was an uncertain time with players not being paid. I received a phone call from my former GK coach from Vancouver Mike Toshack, now of Portland Timbers and was at Houston Dynamo at the time. They were looking for another experienced GK as Pat Onstad, the no1, would be on International duty with Canada for World Cup qualifying and would miss quite a few games.

So that's where I came in, I signed and moved out by myself as my family had just got settled back in the area near to where our families were. I got to play in the Concacaf Champions League and MLS which was a great experience and Houston was a well ran club with a very good management structure.

The standard was good but it's difficult to compare to European leagues as the climate plays a huge role in the pace of the games but there are some very good players. I'm not sure how much the college system prepares the players for the pro game as at 22/23 yrs of age players in Europe have played for 4/5 yrs at a high level.

I think the league is of a high standard and will definitely get even stronger with the academies and football specific stadia coming into force but one thing i think will help over time is the fan base becoming more aware of the game globally and how styles differ from country to country.

 

JB: When you think about American soccer players in Europe and had to name the top ten over the years, I think goalkeepers would be highly represented. Brad Friedel, Brad Guzan and Tim Howard are in England now but also Kasey Keller previously. Why do you think that is?

TC: The physical attributes needed, and being athletic, fits the American blueprint. That with a lot of ball, hand eye coordination sports being played then it combines well together.

I'm sure the USA will produce even more keepers in years to come.

 

JB: In 2010 you returned to Carlisle and won the Football League Trophy once more, although this time you were an unused substitute. Did you think you had come full circle with that trip to the new Wembley to lift the same trophy you had more than a decade before, with the same club?

TC: It was strange going back to the new Wembley, having been to the old one twice with Carlisle, but it was fantastic to win and be there. Although at this time I was starting to move into the coaching a little more so I had big satisfaction in winning with a clean sheet from a coaches point of view.

 

JB: In both Finals there was an American lining up in the side with you. In 1997 it was the Portland native, Paul Conway while in 2011 it was Frank Simek. Do you think these guys should have made more impact on the National side and were they overlooked due to be playing in an English lower league side?

TC: Paul Conway was a very good player, he could run forever and could time his runs very well to score important goals for us. At the time I think he should've had a bigger impact on the National team as the MLS was in its early stages, so the player pool couldn't have been huge to pick from. But because he wasn't at a top club he got overlooked.

Frank Simek was very consistent and did well for a couple of years for us, and previously at Sheffield Wednesday but then had a couple of injuries that set him back a fair bit. It would be more difficult for Frank to make an impact now due the amount of players playing in his position in the MLS and abroad who could be selected at right back.

 

JB: Looking to the World Cup coming up in a few months how do you see England and the USA doing in the competition?

TC: Well this will be interesting as I think now the expectations of England and USA is comparable at the moment. Here in England I think it the first time in my lifetime that the public don't  expect us  to win it .... Which is a big bonus for our younger players .

The USA have a settled squad and they could have their best World Cup this time round with a coach who has experienced the preparation there's needed to be a success.

 

JB: Finally, what are your plans for the future? Do you look to one day being a head coach and if so would an MLS side be one which could turn your head or are you done with traveling and something more local would have more appeal?

TC: I never say never to anything. Football has been very good to me, I've traveled all over Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North and Central America just playing football and at the clubs expense which when you look at it is a fantastic way to work.

I am currently taking my UEFA coaching licences for outfield and have completed my goalkeeping coaching licences so I wouldn't rule anything out in the future. I'm quite happy being first team coach and GK coach at the moment and I'm planning on doing a sport management diploma to give me a better understanding of how professional clubs work in the inside and not just the football side. I like to know how things work and why so it's makes sense for a coach to understand how the club is ran on the non playing side.

One day the MLS could definitely appeal to me as a coach , the set up and structure are very good and working and playing conditions are excellent players and coaches .

JB: Well it has been a pleasure to be able to talk to you and I think if you coach with the same determination and commitment to excellence you had as a player, then you will be successful. Thank you again.


 

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Jason Bardwell
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