Caolan Lavery has come a long way in the past three years and he traveled a long way in order to get there.
The 19-year-old from Red Deer recently signed on to play professional soccer in England with Sheffield Wednesday of the Championship League and he admits he’s a bit nervous but at the same time he couldn’t be more excited.
“I’ve worked all my life to be a professional footballer so at the end of the day it’s what I want to do so the nerves can’t really be there,” said Lavery, who turned down an offer from another club, Ipswich Town.
“I didn’t feel I was going to progress any further with that club at that time. There were so many players in my position at that time and the manager like older players.”
Lavery discussed the options with family and his agent, deciding the move to Sheffield provided more opportunity for the young striker to show off the skills he has worked on since he can recall.
Lavery played some soccer in high school at Notre Dame as well as getting in some action with the former Red Deer Renegades of the Alberta Major League but he went to Calgary to face stiffer competition and prepare himself for the rigors of playing for a pay cheque.
Then came a move across the pond at the age of 16 and he says while that was a very dramatic step it forced him to grow up quickly, something he does not regret for a minute.
“It opened my eyes a lot to the real world really,” he readily admitted.
Sheffield is in the Championship League which is just below the Premiership League, the top level of the four professional leagues in England, so the expectations from the team and the fans are very high.
Lavery says one of the first things he noticed is the level of competition for jobs on the team is fierce and the support of the fans is rabid – but he also had somewhat of a personal realization about the life he chose.
“Getting over there and realizing this is not for fun anymore, you’re getting paid to do a job,” he said, adding it is somewhat sobering to be playing against men who have families and mortgages.
It took some time to get over being a bit homesick but Lavery says he put all his attention on the task at hand – playing pro-soccer for a living.
“Nothing is given to you. It all comes down to the hard work and how badly you want to do something.”
As a forward for the team his job is to score and he understands the weight on his shoulders along with the expectations from the people who pay the money to come see him do just that, something he relishes.
“If you have a chance to score and you should score and you miss then people aren’t going to be happy with you because it doesn’t come around very often.”
He holds an Irish passport so he’s also busy trying to score goals for the Northern Ireland U-21 team but the real job of course is with Sheffield.
He expects his first regular season professional game will happen sometime in August and until then he will train through the week, preparing himself for the pre-season games in July.
He doesn’t expect this to be easy and he plans on earning the respect of his teammates to show that he does belong there.
“Lead by example,” he said. “Keep your head down and work hard.”