|RedNation Interview Series: Michael Findlay
Michael Findlay is a long time coach within the Canadian men's system and current interim head coach of the Canadian men's national team. After trying his luck as a player in the UK, Findlay returned to Canada and entered the world of coaching in BC, where he would become Director of Football Development with B.C. Soccer.
Joining the men's national team program 2008, as an assistant at the U17 level. He has since been part of coaching staff for Canada at the Gold Cup and Jeux de la Francophonie. He joined the senior program full-time under Benito Floro in 2014. He has been in the interim position since September 2016.
We spoke with him about the Bermuda friendly, what's needed to put on a Canada camp, his predecessor and Canada coming home.
RedNation Online: What lead you to getting your coaching license and working with the CSA?
Michael Findlay: What lead me to get my coaching license was I wasn't good enough to play. So it drove me after I spent some time in the United Kingdom chasing the dream of being a professional footballer and realizing at the end of the day I wasn't good enough, I entered the game recreationally but still had a real passion and interest.
There's a gentleman, who actually lives out here in British Columbia, his name is Alan Churchyard who's a coach and educator who's been around for years with Canadian soccer and the Canadian soccer scene. He really encouraged me to get involved with the game as a coach and gave me some amazing direction and information about starting at the beginning and don't get ahead of yourself and make sure you're as educated as possible and each level that you get into will pay dividends. That took me into the game full-time after a period where I was out of the game. Worked locally within the club system in British Columbia and then was lucky enough to join BC soccer as a staff coach.
After a number of years I took on the director of soccer development role and at that time I started working with the CSA as a national youth teams coach with some former staff members there and slowly worked my way through I guess. U15, U17, U20, all the way through. A number of years ago I was lucky enough to be approached and left BC Soccer as the director of football development and joined the CSA as a member of the technical staff.
RNO: What's the hardest part you find of putting together a camp for the Canadian men's national team?
Michael Findlay: To be quite honest with you I don't see it as being hard. You know I enjoy the process. The challenges that to present themselves are really about what are your objectives at this moment in time. We as a nation are entering a very important period of time in our football history in my opinion. We've made some progress, not necessarily on the competition platform because of course the disappointment in not making the hex. There was a lot of good work done behind the scenes and I think this is a period where a great number of young, talented, enthusiastic, passionate players are going to enter our program both professionally at the club level and, hopefully, internationally for us.
So, one of the challenges is making sure that you are setting objectives around every project we do. We need to work on gaining outcomes from each of those projects. We've made it very clear to the players that we want every project moving forward. Given there will be a number of years before we see qualifying again but we still need to be relevant. You need to be relevant from a commitment point of view, passionate and obviously a competition point of view.
There's logistical challenges, obviously, we have to work very hard with our support staff from our senior office and the general manager, Morgan Quarry, to get quality matches but also get quality environments so we can deliver the program.
RNO: You mentioned your work with the Canadian youth program for quite some time. Lots have been made of the improvements over that time but I'm curious: were there any spots you felt Canada regressed?
Michael Findlay: Where Canada regressed...No, I think football is a constantly evolving element and even when you don't have success there is always areas that you're going to learn and gain knowledge.
Did it look like we were taking a step back? I mean if you're specifically talking about the youth programs since I've been involved, I don't think so. I think we've made massive progress in our pathway and the development of our pathway and the work that's being done at that level is tendance in numerous areas. On field, off field, player-profiling, acquisition of resources to assist the program.
As it relates to the Senior team, you know everyone leans on the result before this rotation in Honduras. And even then, there were lessons learned that we did not repeat again so I really don't look at it that way. We're always frustrated that we aren't moving quicker forward, that's probably a better way to look at it. I feel that we should be making some better strides and that comes down to us, the staff and the organization, to put things in place so that we do move a little quicker but we have to also be realistic and patient in that process.
RNO: For the upcoming camp, we're seeing a lot of faces that we know going but also a lot of guys who haven't really shown off their skills at the senior men's level. What kind of squad are you hoping for in the Bermuda game?
Michael Findlay: I think the one thing that we have identified early in this whole process, I felt it was very important as I said to you in the beginning of the conversation, objectives are critical to us. So that's why we expanded the group.
Previously January camps did not have this many players. It did not, necessarily, just focus on the domestic product, which we are doing. So you're seeing MLS, NASL, USL based players, other than maybe one or two who had been based in Scandinavia.
But the reality is what we wanted to do is give them a leg up in their preseason activities with their clubs that will come immediately following this project and in doing so we wanted to create as much of an internal competition environment as possible. So what we're looking for is players who are going to come with a positive attitude, a real interest in wanting to impress the staff and make our job very difficult, quite frankly. You know we don't just want to show up at this project and say “Ok there's our 18. Let's get on with it.” We really want players to challenge.
It's part of my mindset and part of my overall influence on the team and I've made it very clear to them this is a wide open situation, this is a broad canvass to a certain extent and we want you to come with the right frame of mind with a fear free attitude towards how you play and really try to impress us.
We're looking for a very vibrant group to come out of the 28 cause we're only traveling with 18. We're looking for a group that has an interest in wanting to be part of the future and we're looking at a group that sort of want to stake their claim because moving forward we'll be doing other assessments on other levels of play internationally, under 23 in our ongoing inventory of what we've got. We're looking for a very enthusiastic result from the first number of days.
RNO: In the past, you've mentioned a desire to play more friendlies on non-neutral turf, which you've been progressing in already. Do you feel it should be focused more on CONCACAF or more outside?
Michael Findlay: Well it may be situation because each situation's going to provide its own opportunity. It has been my belief, from the very beginning, in terms of being asked to take this role on in the interim position, at this moment in time, I made it clear to our senior management we need to play non-neutral site games as much as possible.
We need to be in environments where our opposition is existing within their stadia, within their environment and their culture and that brings certain challenges for us which also brings certain experience hopefully that we will learn from.
In terms of it being CONCACAF versus other global opposition, you know CONCACAF will always be a priority for us based on that fact that that's where we qualify. But if it is better for the players to be in an international location due to what type of players we're bringing in, what is the load on that player in terms of travel, what time of the season is it. All of those things will come into play when we do analyze what's the best opportunity at that given time.
Certainly the CONCACAF competition we're going to see a lot of this year because of course it's a Gold Cup year and that's the CONCACAF championship... but we'll continue to try to shore that up with whatever opportunity presents itself if it fits into the overall plan and objectives.
RNO: Do you hope to see more friendlies in Canada?
Michael Findlay: Certainly. We're always looking forward to getting the opportunity to play here. I think it's very important that we applaud Canada Soccer senior management and our president based on the fact they've made a commitment right away to say “in 2017, we are going to play on every FIFA window.” Now to do so, that will obviously involve, I think, some home games. That will be up to them to decide what the most appropriate time to do that and then discuss it with technical of what the opponent may look like but also it's about who's available.
But I think you'll see us playing at home this year more than we have in the past. And that ties into I think the overall direction that Peter and Victor have set out in terms of what we want to do in 2017.
RNO: What do you feel Benito Floro passed on to both the players and yourself?
Michael Findlay: I think during the Benito era there was a lot of learning done behind the scenes on exactly what international football's tactical requirements are. If I was going to prioritize the lessons that were learned, I think we certainly saw our players gain great knowledge in that era of exactly what it takes tactically to understand what the opposition may provide and analyzing the opposition.
I think we found ourselves also learning exactly what it took to be solid and to create a foundation to the defending part of our game and I think that boded well and now it's our job to advance that platform into an overall play with regards to the attack and with regards to scoring more goals, that's a goal of our's obviously. But I think it was the overall education, that the players got.
As it relates to me, I mean I've coached with a number of coaches and you're always learning what you should do and what you shouldn't do and I think I gained a lot of knowledge about the analysing of the game from Benito, in terms of the opposition and your individual players. And hopefully, that bodes well for me going forward along with all the other lessons I got from all the other coaches I've been around. It's always an opportunity to learn, whether you're working as an assistant to someone or you're working as a head coach and learning from your assistant because I think it's a collective environment that you work in as a coach especially professionally and at the international level.
RNO: Lots has been said about what your role was under Floro. Some have said you were a recruiter, a liaison and just a general assistant coach. Would you say those are all accurate?
Michael Findlay: Yeah. At that time, I provided a lot of the information that was provided about the Canadian culture, the Canadian player, the assessments of where these players were playing. I was entrusted with certain levels of communication with the players. At times, it was easier for me to do it than Benito to do it.
As a staff, we were entrusted with developing sessions that would deliver on what Benito's vision was at that moment in time and what he wanted to do.
So it was a multi-faceted role that I had and I think I was also brought in assist in the building out of the infrastructure behind the programs in terms of player developing. And also working to try and bridge our youth pathway into our senior pathway. I have a very good working relationship with, obviously, I was a staff member, with Rob Gale and Tony Fonseca and the rest of the youth staff. So that was something that was part of my role too.
Don't forget to watch Canada take on Bermuda this Sunday at 2PM(ET) streaming live on canadasoccer.com.