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Ipswich Manager on Peters


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Glad that's the case. Wondered whether this might also be interesting, it's an interview I did with Jason De Vos in late July.


May De Vos Be With You

It was little surprise when Joe Royle went out and bought himself a new defender as soon as 2003/04 ended. Conceding goals was Town’s biggest downfall throughout last season and something which needs to be rectified if the Blues are going to be serious challengers for the top two places.

On the evidence of pre-season, Jason De Vos appears to be the defensive organiser we’ve lacked since Tony Mowbray hung up his boots. Philip Ham caught up with the Blues’ latest Canadian halfway through pre-season.

So how does a Canadian lad get into ‘soccer’?

You’d be surprised, it’s actually taken over from [ice] hockey as the most played sport in Canada. It’s the biggest participation sport in the country now, there’s something like 800,000 kids playing football in Canada and only around 600-700,000 are playing hockey.

The problem is that there’s nowhere for them to play when they get to 15/16-years-old because there’s no professional league. There are professional teams but they don’t have the infrastructure that league clubs over here have. So, kids get to that age and they stop playing.

Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton play in the A-League [second highest league in the US], but anyone who has any promise or any ambitions to make a career has to go abroad.

You were at Montreal before coming to the UK…

I started in London, Ontario way, way back, I played there for a year, then I played for Kitchener for a year and then London for a year and then the whole league just collapsed and folded.

Another league started up and I played with Montreal for few years before coming over here and playing with Darlington.

That a good introduction to British football?

It was a culture shock to say the least. But it was the best thing I could have done, just jumping in with two feet and getting myself accustomed to what it’s like over here.

I enjoyed my time there, it was different from anything I’d ever experienced in my life but it put me in good stead and put me on a very sharp learning curve.

What was the biggest difference?

The pace of the game is just electric in this country compared to North America because of the weather. In Canada in the summer it can be 35 degrees and you just cannot charge about at 100 mph in that sort of weather.

That was certainly something I had to adjust to and get myself used to and going to Darlington was probably the best thing.

And then it was on to Dundee United…

I had a choice of quite a few clubs to go to at the time but I went to Dundee United because of the coaching staff there. Paul Sturrock was the manager, John Blackley was the assistant manager and Terry Butcher was there as well.

As a young centre-half learning his trade, I don’t think there’s anyone better to learn from in England than Terry Butcher. He was fantastic with me and the first year that I was there I worked with him regularly on my game; on how to improve and what I needed to do to be successful. I really enjoyed working with him.

Did you get to see much English football on Canadian TV when you were growing up?

They didn’t when I was growing up but they do now. Craig Forrest is the presenter for a television show in Canada called Soccer Central which shows live games from the Premiership on a Saturday and a round-up show during the week.

There’s more and more exposure with satellite television, it’s certainly much better than when I was a kid.

You were at Dundee United with Alex Mathie, didn’t I read somewhere at the time that there was a less than harmonious dressing room atmosphere?

To be honest I don’t really know where that came from. It was actually Alex who was the person who was saying all that. I talked to him about it and he said he was misquoted, whether he was or not I don’t know.

From my standpoint there were never any problems that way. We were struggling, we were at the wrong end of the table and it was always difficult there. I got to a point there where there wasn’t anything to play for anymore in Scotland. If you’re not playing for Rangers or Celtic, you’re just playing to survive.

It's a very strange league to play in; one week you’ll play a side who’d struggle in Division One in England and the next you’re up against Celtic.

Everyone lives for the games against the Old Firm and any of the other ten teams in the league can clinch third. I just felt that at that stage of my career and my life that I wanted to be playing for something. I wanted to win things and I wanted to be successful, and I didn’t feel that I was going to develop any further as a player by being there.

So, I asked the club if they’d be willing to let me leave and sell me. They said they would, and to cut a long story short, I ended up at Wigan.

I seem to recall at that time, summer 2000, that you were linked with a move to Town. Did you get a call from Portman Road?

I was linked with a lot of clubs and spoke to quite a few, Ipswich wasn’t one I spoke to but I had the choice of going to a number of clubs.

All the First Division clubs that I spoke to all said that if I was going to come and play for them, I’d have to retire from international football and I didn’t feel that was fair to ask of someone who was 27-years-old. In the prime of my career I didn’t feel I was ready to pack up international football.

Starting out in Canada all I ever wanted to do was play for my country. Being a pro footballer in England has come as a by-product of all the hard work I put in to play for my country. I wasn’t prepared to turn my back on my country just because of going to play for another club.

However, Wigan never gave me that ultimatum, they wanted me to come and they knew that I could work around my international schedule and be flexible with it. I went there because they were ambitious and Paul Jewell convinced me that it was a good club to go to and that they’d be successful, and in the end that proved to be true.

Wigan’s very much a club on the up, isn’t it?

It is, they have a lot of ambition and probably more money than anyone else in the First Division at this point in time because of the chairman [JJB boss Dave Whelan].

But if you try and compare it as a football club to somewhere like Ipswich there is no comparison. Wigan are just starting out, whereas Ipswich are a club with a lot of history, where the facilities are first class and as a footballer you couldn’t ask for more in a football club.

At Wigan they are perhaps behind when it comes to that sort of thing. They are making great strides and trying to bring themselves up to standard but it’s certainly a different situation playing down here.

Do you see them as one of the sides battling with Town for promotion next season?

I think they probably will. They’ve got a good enough squad there already, and that can improve with the chairman’s money and the manager’s knowledge. I don’t think he’s made a bad signing since he’s been there, every signing he’s made has contributed to the success that they’ve had.

I think it’s only a matter of time before you see Paul Jewell managing in the Premiership, whether it’s with Wigan or somebody else. If they don’t go up then I’m sure someone will come in for him and he’ll take the reigns of a Premiership club.

You’ve played on both sides of central defence, any preference?

I’ve played both sides and I’m comfortable on either foot. It’s been more out of necessity than anything else, as most clubs I’ve been with haven’t had a left-sided centre-half. But I’m happy to be playing wherever as long as I’m playing.

Since I’ve been at Town we’ve not really discussed it. I’ve played a little bit on the left and a little bit on the right, so I’ll leave it to the manager to decide which he feels most comfortable and confident with. Like I say, as long as I’m out there playing I’m happy to be anywhere; I’ll play up front if I have to!

Well, you have scored the odd goal here and there, haven’t you?

I’ve scored a few. Obviously being 6ft 4in you can get on the end of crosses and that’s something I’ve tried to add to my game over the years. It’s much more difficult to do at this level, defenders are much better than they are in the Second Division. But I’m hopeful I can get on the scoresheet a few times for Ipswich this season.

I saw you playing for Town for the first time in the pre-season game at Peterborough. I very much noticed your vocal organising skills, even from some way back in the stand. That a major part of your game?

You want to hear my voice the next day! I’m only just getting my voice back from the Oxford game [three days earlier - Ed]! That’s very much part of my game, it comes to me naturally.

I just find that as a defender your most important job is to try and organise your team-mates. If the guys in front of you are organised then you’re strong defensively. That’s something we always worked on at Wigan and we always prided ourselves on our defensive record, and I think we need to adopt that same mentality here.

And it’s getting better and better. Every game we’re getting better, every training session we’re getting better, and we're getting more organised. If we can have that structure as a team then we’re going to be successful.

Looking at the squad, we have we’ve got some great talent going forward; the likes of Darren Bent, Dean Bowditch and Westy all coming up who have fantastic careers ahead of them, and they are all only going to get better.

We’ve got the old heads there like Jim and Kevin, and they’re going to guide those young guys on. Going forward we’re going to cause a lot of teams problems.

Do you think pre-season’s gone OK despite some of the early results?

You don’t ever really look at results in pre-season. Your first couple of games are just about fitness, about getting your legs going, getting the ball moving and getting some shape to the team. It’s just a question of getting the team playing the way you want it to play.

People were saying that we weren’t scoring enough goals and then we put in five against Oxford. It just takes time to gel as a team and that’s what pre-season’s for. You don’t win anything or any points, so it’s irrelevant what the results are.

What’s this I read about you doing a degree?

I’m halfway through a correspondence degree in business management but I’ve put that on hold for a while. My wife and I had a daughter two years ago and I found I wasn’t spending enough time with her and I wasn’t spending enough time with the books. So I put the books on hold for a while as she’s only young once.

I want to spend as much time with her and I’ve always got time to go back to university when I’m 35, 40-years-old and finished with football. I’ve got all the time in the world to do that.

I may also do some media work like Craig is doing back home when I’ve finished playing. I did some broadcasting in Canada for the last World Cup which I really enjoyed. I’d like to do it for the next one. Ideally I’d like to do live reports from the World Cup as I’m playing in it, but we’ve got to qualify first!

Reckon you will qualify?

I think we’ve got a very good chance. We’ve got to get out of this group with Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala and they’re horrible countries to go and play in. The pitches are awful, the conditions are awful and the fans are hostile; you can’t sleep at night because they’re all outside your hotel making noise. They aren’t the best places to go.

But we’ve got a good, talented squad of players, a bit like Ipswich in that we’re very dangerous going forward. We just need to make sure that we’re organised defensively and we’ll cause teams problems with people like Tomasz Radzinski up front.

I looked at your qualification process and it’s very extensive, isn’t it?

It is. It’s not ideal. I wish it was a bit more like Europe where you have one group and you play your games and if you win your group you’re through. But that’s just the way it is.

I don’t think you could ever accuse the CONCACAF people of being able to organise a tournament. Some of the things we’ve had to do over the years have been farcical. I don’t run the association, I don’t make the decisions but I’ve certainly argued with the Canadian association many times about the way things are done and the way things should be done, but they certainly don’t do anything to accommodate us.

Don’t you get to face some really small countries?

That’s just the way it is and they have every right to qualify just like everyone else. You’ve got to win those games to get through and hope you avoid injuries.

You say Canada’s very important to you, but does all the travelling get to you after a while?

It’s not easy and it’s something we continually discuss with Frank and the Canadian Soccer Association. We try to get them to be as accommodating to us as possible as it’s our jobs on the line here and our priority has to be playing for our club teams.

I’m certainly no different from anyone in that regard, in that Ipswich comes first, but international honours are important to me and in that way I’m no different from David Beckham and how playing for England is important to him. No one would ask him not to play for England because he had to travel a long distance.

I think sometimes because people feel that because you don’t have as strong a squad or as storied a history as England that playing for your country doesn’t mean as much. It means everything to me, I’m one of the most patriotic people you’ll ever find and it is important to me.

But obviously, I understand that my first priority is Ipswich Town and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I don’t miss any games.

So you’re not expecting any club versus country hassles over the five-day rule?

It’s caused us a lot of problems as players, as people have seen we’ve got games and have reported that we’re going to miss this game or that game, but it doesn’t happen that way.

Frank Yallop’s never ever going to invoke the five-day rule. If we’ve got a game on the Tuesday night, he’ll let us play for our club on the Saturday and travel on the Sunday. He knows that we’re professional enough to look after ourselves, get the right amount of rest and he knows we’ll be ready to go on the Tuesday night for him to Canada. Fans can be rest assured that that’s never going to happen.

Are you going to play in friendlies for Canada?

I don’t anticipate playing any friendlies for Canada. Frank has been very accommodating as he realises the position we’re in, having been there himself. I highly, highly doubt that he will demand my participation in meaningless friendlies.

You’re the fourth Canadian to play for Town, after Frank, Craig and 70s full-back Bruce Twamley, do you know him? What’s he up to these days?

I played with Frank and Craig for Canada and Bruce was my manager for a period. He was, and still is, the manager of the Olympic team and he was also the assistant coach to the former national team manager, so I’ve known Bruce for quite a while.

Did you consult the likes of Frank, Craig and Wigan team-mate Alan Mahon before deciding to move to Town?

I didn’t speak to Mahony, but I spoke to Frank quite a bit because I knew when last season finished that I’d be leaving Wigan and I knew there were a number of clubs I could have gone to.

I consulted Frank to see what he thought about the different clubs who were interested and as soon as I mentioned Ipswich he told me right away to sign because I’d love it. He said it’s a great club and a great town, the fans are superb and it’ll make you a better player, which is obviously in his interest as Canada boss. He has a good relationship with everyone here and that’s going to help me and him in his job.

As soon as I came down here and met Joe Royle and Willie Donachie and had a chat with them about the club and where they wanted to go, it was an easy decision, probably one of the easiest decisions of my career.

How are you settling into the area?

I’m scouring the area for a house, some temporary accommodation so I can get my wife down here, but it’s going quite well and I’m pretty pleased with things down here. The lads have been really helpful, letting me know which areas to look at.

Do you see yourself as a future captain here? I notice you’ve captained most of your sides in the past.

It’s not up to me. Jim’s a great captain, someone that everyone looks to for leadership. I think you need leaders all over the team whether you’re wearing an armband or not. You need your experienced players to be leaders, to talk, communicate and help the younger guys out as much as they can.

Confident that it’s going to be a decent season?

I am, yeah. I wouldn’t have come here if I’d thought we were going to struggle. From what I see of the place I’ve been very impressed. Offensively we look really strong and defensively we’re getting better with every day.

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Very fine interview, Phil. Thanks for posting. De Vos is thoughtful and articulate. I particularly like this comment, which strikes me as very true: "I think sometimes because people feel that because you don’t have as strong a squad or as storied a history as England that playing for your country doesn’t mean as much. It means everything to me..."

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man, great interview...i love jdv....thanks phil.

i cant wait for peters to play...his whole story is so surreal. i have not been overly impressed when he plays for the nats, but he must have something, if these big clubs have such high hopes for him. it will pretty exciting to follow his development.

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Excellent interview both in questions asked and the responses from DeVos. Contains some pretty good information that I and probably most other CNT fans were unaware of. The sad thing is that with the exception of the odd Neil Davidson article Phil has outdone the entire Canadian media in coverage of our Men's National Team. He is really the only guy besides Davidson writing quality articles on Canadian players. Hope he keeps up the good work but it sure makes our media look bad.

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quote:Originally posted by Calgary Boomer

I think I read this on the Ipswich website. Why isn't DeVo on the Canada roster for Portugal? Is he hurt?

It says in the article that he's not interested in playing in meaningless friendlys. I think that answers a lot of questions.

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