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The Article on Edgar in the KW Record Part 2


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Life in the Premier League

First he scored a goal against Manchester United, then came the reality of playing in a soccer-mad city



Newcastle's David Edgar (second from right) celebrates his game-tying goal against Manchester United during their New Year's Day soccer match.


David Edgar, standing on the Millennium Bridge in Newcastle, says his team's fans make Newcastle the most passionate city for soccer in the country.

David Edgar


The party lasted well into the night on New Year's Day.

Kitchener's David Edgar collected the Man of the Match award after scoring the equalizer for Newcastle in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United. Then, he hit the town.

Everyone in the city centre was celebrating his unbelievable achievement. It was his night.

Edgar rang up a few of his mates from high school, friends he met during his early days in England. He took the group out for dinner and a few pints and picked up the entire tab.

His cellphone was overloaded with messages -- about 100 calls from all over the world. But one in particular stood out.

"It said, 'Hey David, it's Alan Shearer,'" recalled Edgar. "I thought: someone is taking the mickey, someone is telling a joke."

Newcastle's hometown hero, and the English Premier League's all-time leading goal scorer, added: "I just want to say that even without the goal, I thought you were brilliant. Well done."

A personal message from old No. 9. It was the ultimate compliment. "He is a legend here," said Edgar, "Just to get a message like that from him was amazing."

Things were indeed changing for the 19-year-old soccer defender.

The enormity of it all was settling in. He was actually playing in the Premiership. Living away from his family in Canada. Adjusting to a new country. Making new friends.

After five years of fighting on the pitch, all the sacrifices were beginning to pay off.

"A couple of days later, I saw myself on TV and seeing all sorts of stuff from back home, that's when I realized how big of a deal it was," said Edgar.

"But it's just one small step."

Being a member of the first squad means instant celebrity status in Newcastle.

Players get priority access to top restaurants and clubs in the trendy Quayside area along the banks of the Tyne River. They're mobbed by fans seeking pictures and autographs as they walk through town. They train in a lavish, expensive facility with all the perks -- indoor and outdoor fields, weight room, upscale dressing rooms and a player's lounge outfitted with a big-screen TV and pool tables.

And then, the women. Premier League footballers don't have any problems finding dates.

Premier League athletes make an average salary of about 675,000 pounds, or about $1.5 million Cdn. As a young player, Edgar hasn't hit that territory yet. But it's believed that his two-year deal, which expires in June, is worth a couple hundred thousand pounds at least.

The high profile can lure money-hungry female fans.

"You get girls like that," said Edgar, who is single. "I'm not really interested in that right now."

In fact, soccer players will often tell women they work at McDonald's and make up fake names to deter the gold-diggers. The team also teaches players how to handle their new-found wealth and fame.

Still, some react better than others.

Newcastle midfielder Kieron Dyer has had his share of troubles. The Ipswich native was filmed urinating in public.

He crashed his Ferrari on a Newcastle bridge. He was also arrested, but later released, on suspicion of indecent exposure following a complaint from a female staff member at a hotel. All the stories were splashed across the local newspapers.

"The northeast tends to do that to you," said Edgar's father, Eddie. "They like the fact that you've done great, but you better not get out of line or they'll absolutely slaughter you."

Edgar doesn't get the attention like the marquee Magpies. But he's beginning to notice a change. Autograph and picture requests are up and fan mail is trickling in.

"Most people are generally nice and walk by and say, 'Well done'."

The notoriety has also spread to his family. Soon after he scored against Manchester United, his grandmother Nancy White saw an increase in visitors to her Hebburn home.

"I heard a knock at my door," she said. "When I opened it, there was a line of kids standing there. They said: 'We've come to see David'."

Even his older sister Joanne is noticing a change here in Kitchener. "I'm starting to get 'Are you David Edgar's sister' when I go out," the 23-year-old University of Waterloo student said.

David is enjoying the success in moderation. He's hired a cleaning lady for the Kingston Park home he rents. He now leases a swanky grey BMW. And he enjoys splurging on clothes. Other than that, he just enjoys the little things.

"Just travelling with the first team," he said. "You stay in nice hotels and fly everywhere. When you get off the plane, you go through the back door and the bus is waiting for you. There is no waiting or anything."

There is nowhere to hide in Newcastle. The fans keep a strict eye on their lads. When David had a few friends over to his home, a concerned neighbour -- and fervent Magpies supporter -- called the team just to let them know.

Geordies are mad about their soccer club.

"Newcastle is the national team," said Mike Bolam, who has missed just three Magpies games in the last 12 years. "It's something that is instilled in you at a very young age."

Newcastle lies in northeast England, not far from the Scotland border and about a 10-minute drive from the North Sea. The city was built around a bevy of industries, most notably coal mining and shipbuilding.

But like many cities, heavy industry has declined. Even the beloved Newcastle Brown Ale brewery moved out of town about two years back.

The one staple in town has been the Magpies. And everyone rallies around the club.

The team has been kicking around since two local sides -- East End and West End -- merged in 1892. That's when the squad shed its red and white colours and changed to the famous black and white stripes.

"Newcastle United is the heart and soul of the city," said Bolam. "The England team, it's sort of like, that's for London, that's for other people. We will support England, but my national team plays in black and white."

More than 40,000 fans have season tickets and thousands follow the club to every out-of-town match. Newspapers devote pages to the team and gossip around town is rampant.

"Everyone has their own window cleaner story," said Bolam, 39. "A common line around here is that 'I just saw Pele in the chip shop and he's going to sign.' It's rumour city. Everybody knows everybody else and the obsession is one team.

"If a footballer falls over, three hours later, you'll get in a taxi and somebody will tell you about a massive brawl and all he's done is stub his toe. The glare of publicity is always there."

St. James' Park sits on a hill high above the city like a castle. It's the oldest stadium in the northeast, dating to 1880. The buzz begins early on game day. Supporters draped in black and white jerseys and long scarves stagger up cobble-stoned streets toward the stadium.

Pubs like Tilleys on Westgate Road are filled to the brim.

A thick plume of cigarette smoke hovers overhead at the Bodega, a watering hole near the park.

Supporters stand shoulder to shoulder, pint in hand, at Shearer's, located at the ground floor of the stadium. Bouncers wearing long black trench coats wave two people in for every two who leave. Inside, big-screen TVs broadcast pre-game shows.

More than 50 reporters sift through statistics in the media room. Television crews arrived six hours before kickoff to set up.

Jerseys of starting players hang in the stalls in the newly renovated Magpies' dressing room. Obafemi Martins. Kieron Dyer. James Milner. All the stars are there.

Down the hall, through the players' tunnel, the roar of the crowd builds as the opening whistle approaches. Geordies young and old break into song. One of the first, is a rousing version of The Blaydon Races, a 19th-century Geordie folk song; it's the club's unofficial anthem. Later, it's Howay The Lads, another favourite.

The sound of more than 50,000 fans singing in unison is deafening.

"It's so loud," said Edgar. "You just have to yell and yell to each other (on the field) as loud as you can."

There are no distractions, no scoreboard, no announcer goading fans to cheer and no video screen. Fans are focused on the game and nothing more.

"It's the most passionate city for football in the country," said Edgar. "I'm not just saying that because I'm here and support the club. They are the most passionate by far.

"They show how great they are when they are away from home. They always out-sing the home fans, always."

Win, lose or draw, Geordies continue to fill St. James' Park. But they are hungry for a champion. Newcastle hasn't won England's top-flight soccer division since 1926-27. That's 80 years. United's last FA Cup victory, which is England's annual knockout-style tournament, was 52 years ago.

"We have a lovely stadium but it's like the old expression: we have a fur coat and no knickers," said Bolam, who once saw 126 academy, youth and first-team Newcastle United games in one season. "If we actually won something, God knows what would happen? People would probably take a week off work."

Many failed superstars have come through town in the past decade. So, it's stories like Edgar's that warm the hearts of locals.

"Talk to any Geordie and it's the ones who give effort and commitment and look like they want to be there that earn your respect," said Bolam. "David has people on his side who want him to do well. There is no axe to grind against him. He doesn't have an expensive fee. He doesn't have a bad reputation."

Edgar's recent success has the Canadian Soccer Association drooling. Canada will host the Under-20 World Cup this summer for the first time and Edgar is an integral part of the team. The 24-team tournament, which kicks off July 1 in Toronto, will be one of the biggest sporting events ever held in Canada.

"For Canadian soccer, he's big," said Colin Linford, president of the CSA and a Kitchener resident. "He could be the poster boy of the 2007 World Cup, especially in this area."

Edgar is committed to Canada and would love to work his way up to the senior men's national team one day. If England ever asked him to switch allegiances, he says he would politely decline. He hopes to get a few warm-up games in with the Under-20 squad next month, but only if it doesn't interfere with the Magpies' schedule.

"We certainly look at him as a leader within our group," said Canadian Under-20 coach Dale Mitchell. "The next logical progression is the Olympic team, which is the Under-23 team, and I think David will certainly be called upon for that. If things continue to progress at Newcastle the way they are, a call-up to the Canadian senior team can't be that far down the road."

Edgar has been used sparingly with the Magpies since his big goal. But he understands that he got his shot because of injuries that plagued the club.

Since then, several players have returned and coach Glen Roeder has opted for a more experienced lineup. Some fans think Edgar deserves more playing time because he has been sharp in every appearance for United this season. Roeder insists his lack of minutes is nothing personal.

"I think David and I have a good relationship," said Roeder, who took over for the Magpies midway through last season. "He knows that I'm tough on him, but I'm also very fair with him. I think there's respect both ways. He's on the first rung of the ladder. We must not think he's half up the ladder because he's not."

Roeder said Edgar will remain with the first squad until the season ends in early May. He added that the young Canadian might be better suited to go on-loan -- meaning Newcastle would still own his rights, but he would play for another club -- next season. That way, Edgar would get more playing time and then return when a spot on Newcastle's roster opens up.

But that scenario could play out only if Edgar re-signs with Newcastle. His current contract expires in June. About eight teams -- including Toronto FC of the Major League Soccer -- have asked about his services, according to Edgar's agent Barry MacLean. The Canadian super agent is planning to meet with Roeder to discuss a new deal this month.

"I think he's in the situation now where we have to sit down and see what real interest there is and see where Newcastle puts him in the pecking order and take it from there," said MacLean, whose company, First Wave Sports Marketing, represents more than 75 clients worldwide. "There is no point in signing him to a long-term contract if he's never going to play."

Edgar manoeuvres his BMW through the narrow streets of Newcastle like a pro. Snoop Dogg's rhythmic flow pours out of his car stereo as he shows off his new tattoo -- his name written in Sanskrit on the inner side of his right wrist.

"You know, Canada is my home but I've lived here for five years now," he says as he rolls by Hanahana, his favourite Japanese restaurant on Bath Lane. "This city is amazing. I love it. I want to stay with Newcastle. "

But even if it doesn't work out with the Magpies, fans will remember him fondly as the Canadian kid who captured their hearts with one swift strike of the ball on New Year's Day.

"He wore the shirt," said Bolam. "So whether he come from Ontario, up the street or from Venus, it doesn't matter. He's an honorary Geordie. The fact that it says Kitchener, Ontario, Canada on his birth certificate to the man on the streets here is irrelevant.

"To a greater or lesser extent, he's one of us."


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Another article from the Record:



David Edgar got his start here, but he did the rest himself



779 words

21 February 2007

Kitchener-Waterloo Record




Copyright © 2007 Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

Kitchener-native David Edgar's success as an up-and-coming soccer player with Newcastle United in the English Premier League is just about the best thing that could happen to the game locally.

It's the kind of success that's real and tangible for young athletes because Edgar grew up here: He's one of ours.

His success did not start at St. James' Park, Newcastle, on Jan. 1 when he scored the tying goal against Manchester United in front of an army of raving Magpie fans in one of the country's maddest football cities and one of the world's toughest leagues.

He did not just show up in the northeast of England at age 14 a complete player ready to waltz onto the first-team roster -- good footballers in Newcastle are like, well, the proverbial coal.

No, his success began here in Kitchener several years ago. That makes him an inspiration for local athletes because he has illustrated what hard work can achieve.

Sure, he had a few connections and good luck. His father, Eddie Edgar, himself a Geordie and one-time Newcastle 'keeper who knows the game of soccer, has contacts in the club. When he first arrived in England, David was able to board with his grandmother (who lives near Newcastle), an advantage that aided the 14-year old's transition, cultural and otherwise. His six-foot-two frame certainly benefits him as a defender, and remarkably, Edgar is not yet 20 years old.

But his success with Newcastle is a very much a made-in-Kitchener one. Edgar cut his teeth on the game and worked hard to learn the fundamentals right here. As just one example, I observed Edgar in 2000 when he was training at a "Pure Touch" camp for Kitchener Soccer Club players at Budd Park. Eddie was the head instructor.

There were a dozen or so kids participating in the camp, and David was undoubtedly a good athlete and a skilled soccer player. Was he a prodigy? A genius with the ball? An exceptionally gifted talent? No.

There were other athletes with good potential who were also training, but David possessed (and no doubt still possesses) a few distinctive qualities that were to set him apart from the others. First, he was very receptive to the coaching points that were being taught, and he worked hard at making them second nature.

He knew he had to perfect his skills. He did it with his father instructing him while playing with Kitchener, just as I am sure has been the case with every other coach locally or with the Newcastle coaching staff.

While many athletes can perform their game's skills as a routine, the key is to be able execute them under pressure during fast-paced games with little time and space.

For this reason, the Edgar family decided that David had to leave Canada and train with the quicker, highly skilled players at the Newcastle youth academy.

Only after years of training can a player the quality of Edgar perform skills perfectly, or nearly perfectly, over and over again while battling opponents and facing limited time and space in game situations.

But David also possesses, as Record sports reporter Josh Brown described in his recent informative and entertaining profiles of Edgar, a dogged determination to work hard and succeed.

When the other players had quit or gone home, he kept working indoors, outdoors, in all kinds of weather, and at all times of the year. Sure, he was pushed to train by his dad and other coaches, but he recognized first that he had to push himself.

Before local youth athletes worry about the pro leagues, they need to find it within themselves to train as hard as they can, day-in and day-out, right here at home; and they need to take full advantage of the coaching opportunities that are offered to them.

As a kid in Kitchener, David Edgar grabbed the coaching points being presented, combined them with simple hard work, and ran with them -- all the way to the English Premier League.

Andrew Coppolino's column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at andrew@tablescraps.ca


See David Edgar's goal in the multimedia section at www.therecord.com

COLUMN; Ran with "INSIDE" which has been appended to the end of this story

Photo: RECORD FILE PHOTO / David Edgar in 1999: He got his start here -- and his hard work paid off. Photo

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