Hello, Goodbye

Eckersley adds experience and extends the depth to the backline, and we say goodbye to someone who once made me cut my hand in joy.

Eckersley with Hearts (image from Getty via Once a Metro)

Throughout high school and the early part of my University years I was an avid Football Manager and—before the Eidos/Sports Interactive break up—Championship Manager player. Let me rephrase that, ‘addict’ is probably the more appropriate term here. My save games were of a variety of teams. I’d lead Roma to Champions League wins and work Totti to death because he just wouldn’t retire; at Woking, I’d 4–5–1 my way to the bright shining lights of League One; or I would be the gaffer at DC United on CM4 and sign Niall Quinn in a wheelchair on a free transfer as a star player. It was always fun to try different challenges, tactics, budgets and players.

With every version of the game I bought or illegally downloaded however, I always ran Manchester United for the guilty pleasure of having a handsome transfer budget and a strong team, just to feel what it might be like. What Football Manager is strongest at and why people keep playing, is its exhaustive research. It gives a real-world connection to sport unlike any other game. So year after year, as soon as I started a new United save, I would see a list of names in the United academy and reserves. Few developed well enough to crack the first team, some were sold, but most got released in the end.

So when the NASL Insider twitter account hinted that FC Edmonton had signed another product of the Manchester United Academy, you can imagine my nerdy delight at running through that same list of names. Names I only knew because I would start them early in the cup to give Scholes or Heinze a rest. It was a delight I had visited before when Ritchie Jones signed two years ago.

Adam Eckersley was one of those players.

Manchester United’s lineup on Jones and Eckersley’s professional debuts. 2005–06 Carling Cup 3rd Round vs. Barnet of League Two. 4–1 at Full Time. The two future Eddies were booked.

Eckersley joins the squad having had some time off after suffering through an injury-plagued season, and never featuring for Hibs. It has been over a year since his last significant amount of footballing for Hibs’ eternal rival, Hearts. There, he was a regular at left back in the Scottish Championship, winning that league and promotion to the Premiership. Previously, Eckersley enjoyed comparable success in the Danish 1st Division (2nd tier) winning promotion with both Horsens and Aarhus, spending 6 years between the two clubs.

So what does Eckersley bring to FC Edmonton? Given this experience and the fact that he is a natural left-back, signs are pointing to Eckersley entering preseason as the favourite to start there. Last year a combination of Kareem Moses, Johann Smith and Allan Zebie shared that role, with Zebie impressing many despite his youth and natural right-footedness. While it was hoped that Zebie be given further opportunity to grow, the chance of signing this kind of experience could not be taken for granted. While his recent injury troubles are of concern, a lot can still be said about the kind of leadership and other contributions he can provide beyond his playing duties, if that situation arises.

“…he is a natural left back, an attack-minded player”

It is hoped that on top of his defensive duties, Eckersley can provide more support going forward. While it is given that fullbacks in the current FCE system are expected to support attacks, there may be situations where a player like Corea or Gustavo may cut in from the wing in attack. This may give the space for Eckersley to act as an option in support for a cross into the box. In effect, Eckersley may fill-in a few of the traditional duties of a winger if there is a lack of one.

Added nearly as an afterthought at the end of the club’s press release, was the sad news that winger Michael Nonni and club had “amicably” parted ways. Though he never really broke into the squad, Nonni certainly found his way to all FCE hearts by scoring what is arguably the greatest goal in FC Edmonton’s very young history. Though it has not even been 2 years since it happened, to many, the injury time winner against Montreal in the first leg of the Voyageurs Cup represents a indelible moment—and it was Nonni’s foot at the end of it.

Oh what a night.

Personally, I remember talking to Nonni last year after training on the field in BC Place before the semifinal 1st leg in Vancouver. I had arranged my flight plans so that I could catch training with the hope of writing a story for my first post on this very platform about two BC residents coming home, his story and Colin Miller’s. I did the interviews, took my notes and came up with an outline; but for one reason or another I was just sapped by the end of the day couldn’t write the story. That was nearly 8 months ago, but I’d like to think that the lesson—part of a larger collection of lessons—of my failure in telling Nonni’s story has in some small part led to the recent establishment of this blog.

Also, that guy made me cut myself once:

Thank you for the memories, Michael. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.

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