In this series, iconic Canadian soccer players recount their experiences playing and developing their game in a city that now welcomes a new team in the Canadian Premier League.
For Greg Sutton, the concept of home is many things.
The Hamilton-born goalkeeper moved to Connecticut at the age of two, spending most of his youth soccer days in the United States. Yet, he donned the shirt of the Canadian national team, and played professionally in cities like Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, and New York. As a result, home isn’t limited to one place for Sutton. With Hamilton set to welcome Forge FC to the Canadian Premier League, Sutton hopes to reconnect with the place of his birth – and experience the beautiful game – in a meaningful way.
“One of the things I always hoped for was a connection,” Sutton told the CPL, when asked about his experiences with soccer in the city of his birth. “Not many people actually knew I was from Hamilton. I haven’t been the guy to reach out and introduce myself – maybe that’s something I should have done – and maybe doing this interview will help. One of the things that I always want to do and continue to do for soccer in Canada is give back, whether it’s helping younger kids, or doing work on television promoting the game. If there’s something I can do for Hamilton soccer, sign me up.”
Sutton isn’t entirely unfamiliar with the city of Hamilton – he has plenty of family in the area, and said he felt a connection to the city because of his relatives.
Since retiring from the game in 2012, Sutton has worked as a broadcaster in Montreal, as well as serving as the head coach of the Concordia University men’s soccer team. Soccer has been a major part of Sutton’s life in each of the cities he has ventured to, but while he is familiar with the city of his birth, he admitted he had felt “a disconnect” between himself and Hamilton’s soccer culture.
That’s something he hopes will change with Forge FC.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend my time playing soccer in Hamilton, but I’m still very proud of where I’m from, so for me, I think it’s an exciting time for Canadian soccer,” Sutton said. “Hamilton’s always had the perception of being a blue-collar town … which I hope will resonate with the team and add to that persona of being a hard-working, blue-collar team. That’s what soccer is all about. If you can out-work your opponents, you can win more times than not. Hopefully they stick with that idea and run with it.”
Sutton also sees another opportunity – the growth and strengthening of the national team, which he once proudly represented. It starts with youth, he offered, adding that the CPL is the perfect platform for the development of talent within the country.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions in youth soccer when it comes to kids wanting to play professional soccer,” Sutton explained. “A lot of them have ingrained in their heads that the only way they’re going to be professional is if they get involved in the European professional culture … the misconception is that it’s not going to be your best avenue playing soccer in Canada. I think that’s wrong. If you are good enough and you have the passion and the desire to continue to grow and get better, you can become a professional soccer player here in Canada, without a doubt.
“That’s the message I would give to all the kids who aren’t sure if they can do it – if you put your head down, work hard and believe in yourself, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
Forge FC is a proud member of the Canadian Premier League, which will begin play in April of 2019. Membership deposits can be made at ForgeFootball.Club. Fans will be able to put down a $50 deposit to secure their place in line to become founding season ticket members.