Column: Changing of the guard on Laurentians’ sidelines

John Browne
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“Pressure is a privilege.”
— Billy Jean King

St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians soccer fans can thank Derek Strang’s wife for his decision to get back into head coaching duties with the Challenge Cup men’s soccer club.
“Funny, but knowing how much time it takes, people think that I’m joking when I tell them that my wife actually encouraged me to go back,” said Strang, who was an assistant coach under Blair Aylward last season.

“But my wife knew what the game means to me and as soon as I got back on the field, I realized how much I missed it and how much I enjoyed working with the players.”

Guiding the legendary soccer club is one of the highest profile jobs in provincial sports. Every St. Lawrence supporter is a critic and they’re hard to please, even on a good day.

Pressure comes with the job, which is fine with Strang.

Strang, who lives in Burin, said the main reason he left the head coaching duties in 2008 was due to having a young family and the commitment it takes to coach a team that is essentially based out of St. John’s.

Now the kids are older and more independent, so when Aylward decided not to return, Strang felt it was time to jump back in with the help of assistants Dr. Paul Slaney and Jonathan Edwards.

Strang said soccer, outside of his family, is everything to him. He said, for example, that he doesn’t watch or care about hockey or basketball.

“I just love soccer. I really enjoy going to the field and taking a team and making the individuals and the team better. At the end of the day I’d like to hear the players say they are better. That’s something I take a lot of pride in.”

“If I had to chose one person in Newfoundland soccer to be my assistant it would be Paul, with his knowledge of the game and strong link to St. Lawrence soccer,” said Strang. “Both of my assistants are very good at what they do and are totally committed.”

Strang also has the support of his predecessor, Aylward, a former standout St. Lawrence player, who leaves on a high note.

He coached the Laurentians to their first provincial senior soccer championship in five years which is an eternity for St. Lawrence supporters.

See AYLWARD, page C3

Aylward said it gave him great pleasure and pride to coach Big Blue last season, but taking the job seriously became a time consuming endeavor.

Because of that he said “other parts of my life get put to the side at times. So, I decided to concentrate on my family and professional life now that I helped St. Lawrence return to the pinnacle of Newfoundland soccer where they belong.”

 Aylward says he’s leaving the Laurentians in good hands.

“There’s no one involved in soccer on this island that I would take over Derek Strang, tactically and strategically. His practice sessions, game preparations and attention to detail is pheromonal. As is his in-game awareness and ability to adjust.

Aylward, meanwhile, isn’t ruling out coaching in the future.

“However, after the struggle of regaining our lives after our family tragedy, I don’t plan too far ahead anymore,” Aylward said in reference to losing a son in 2009.

He added “time and circumstances” will determine his future involvement in soccer.

Right now he’s kept quite busy.

He says he has a few personal real estate developments he’s trying to get off the ground and he’s also doing some contract work for the provincial government as a management analyst.

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Burin

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