Many few English born players have sampled the MLS life. But one who has even though it was for a limited five months, is Andy Welsh who indulged into his new life in Toronto like it was his natural home. The winger took time out of his studying for a Psychology degree, to chat exclusively about his life and time in Canada and whether he would relish a return back to North America.

First and foremost for all the readers who are unfamiliar with you how would you describe your playing style and what are strengths ?

I am a winger left/right who likes to attack full backs and get crosses in. My strengths are running with the ball and dribbling. As well as set pieces which I have got a lot of assists from in recent times as well.

What age was you and how did you get into soccer ?

I was 7 years old when I first started playing soccer. I had just gone to a new school and got invited to go play for the local team.

Have you always wanted to become a professional soccer player ?

Yes, as soon as I fell in love with the game at 7 it’s all I ever wanted to do and I am so lucky I have so far been playing professionally for 12 years.

During your growing up stages as a soccer player who would you say has been your biggest inspiration and why ?

Well Nigel Deeley was my youth team coach at Stockport County where I started out. He really pushed me and got the best out of me. My Mum and Dad always inspired me as well as this they travelled and still kept travelling large distances to come and watch me play. For that I am grateful.

Prior to your move to Canada you played for Stockport County, Macclesfield Town, Sunderland and Leicester City. How did your move to Toronto FC come about ?

I still had 2 years left on my contract at Sunderland but I wasn’t enjoying my football under Roy Keane, as I had gone from first choice to having to go out on loan to get first team football at Leicester City. Once my loan expired at Leicester I had to return to Sunderland, I had great times at Sunderland but for some reason my face didn’t fit with the manager so I felt it was time to move on. So I had a number of options in England but then I got a phone call from my agent asking me if I would be interested in a move to the MLS. I didn’t know a lot about soccer so had to do a bit of research. Carl Robinson who is a good friend of mine signed for Toronto FC and we both have the same agent, so after a few conversations with Carl and my agent I agreed to fly out to Toronto with my wife and have a look round. When we arrived I think it was -19 degrees with snow up to our knees so it was a massive climate change to say the least!!!

After a week looking around the city and training a couple times with the team we flew back to England with a decision to make. Do I stay at Sunderland for two more years moving from place to place on loan or do I go for a new challenge. But not just any challenge one that would see me leave England for a league I didn’t know much about. It was a tough choice but after falling in love with the city it soon became an easy decision and after one month of being there I could tell it was the right decision especially after the fans reaction during the first game and when Danny Dichio scored the first ever goal for a Canadian club in the MLS.

With you playing all of your soccer in England was it always an ambition of yours to try a new country of soccer ?

I always wanted to try new cultures and new ways of living and a lot of footballers in England would also say the same. But very few would try because of, maybe a lack of opportunity or it’s something that will scare them.

How quickly did you settle into life in Toronto ?

Very quickly, almost too quickly (haha) . From the moment we arrived in the city to the day we left it was an amazing time. Everyone at the football club was really friendly Earl Cochrane was a great help as well as all the people in the office, everyone was so friendly and helpful. I always remember driving past the stadium in a cab the week we came to look around. I said to the cab driver what’s that stadium getting built there he said “that’s the soccer team stadium getting built, I don’t think it will take off though we love hockey and basketball” , to which I replied maybe it’s time for a change. I think now Toronto FC  have a soccer team that is known all over the world, I would love to see the cab driver now and ask him if he feels soccer has taken off in Toronto!

What did you miss most about England during your five months in North America ?

The family nut to be honest, other than that nothing.

How would you describe the style of soccer in the MLS ?

I think the weather has a major part to the play, I can remember playing against the Colorado Rapids at home in the middle of summer in 40 degree heat. It was the hottest game I have ever played in, you would do a sprint and it would take a lot longer to recover than normal, so teams tend to keep the ball for long periods. But they try and play the right way the passing way.

How does it compare to the leagues you have played in in England ?

I think it’s different from the leagues in England especially the lower leagues because the lower leagues see teams putting the ball in the air a lot, a term renowned in England as the long ball game. The Premier League is obviously one of the best leagues in the world and although a lot of teams like to pass the ball you will get the odd exception such as Stoke City who are well known for being a long ball side.

BMO Field is the Canadian National soccer teams ground as well as Toronto’s, what was it like to play in such a stadium as BMO ?

Fantastic! The atmosphere every home game was electric, we use to train their everyday as well which I loved because I would do shooting practice and pretend the stadium was full. The stadium is excellent but I also think fans make a stadium and the Toronto fans are so loud it makes it an intimidating atmosphere.

What were the fans like to you during your time there in Canada ?

Very supportive and I thought I had a good rapport with them. It was the first season, a whole new squad had come together so although we lost the first 4 games, I think it was, the first season was always going to be difficult. Vancouver and Montreal I feel when they have come into the MLS they have had an advantage over Toronto FC as they have both been established professional teams outside the MLS. Whereas Toronto FC has started from scratch and I think the fans did bare that in mind when I was there. To basically build a whole new franchise, squad of players, staff, and office staff was a major achievement that season in itself. But I met a lot of great fans out there and will never forget the support they gave me, I never really got a chance to say thanks and goodbye which I wish I was given the opportunity.

You scored your one and only goal at home to the eventual MLS Cup winners Houston Dynamo. Could you describe the passage of play leading up to your goal as well as how you scored ?

Well for all you Canadian soccer fans out there I basically eluded one of your greatest players ever in the box. Ronnie O’Brien was taking the in-swinging free-kick, I was on the edge of the box being marked by Dwayne De Rosario, I knew if I got a run on him he wouldn’t be able to catch me, so I spun out to the back post then sprinted to the near and left him for dead heading in at the near post! Great day great memories!!

Mo Johnston was the manager who was in charge at TFC whilst you was there. What would you say is his playing philosophy ?

Non-existent to be honest. Mo brought me to Toronto which I am thankful for but towards the end we didn’t see eye to eye which I think everyone knew anyway. He promised me things which he didn’t ever deliver for me, which at the time upset me and my family because we had travelled along way and had left a lot behind in England. He told me I would be playing either left or right in attacking positions. However I think it was the second game away to the MLS runners up the previous season and I was told to play in a wing back roll where I was basically playing defence. I know the Toronto FC fans definitely didn’t see the best of me but a lot of that was down to the position the coach had me playing, Mo brought me over to get assists and goals yet a lot of the time I was defending. So the answer to the question is I don’t think Mo had a philosophy!

What are his attributes as person ?

I got on ok with Mo when he was convincing me to come to club but after that he never really took an interest in me or any of the other players. So I don’t think I’m the best person to answer that question.

What was he like to play under ?

As previously stated I found it difficult,  we had many senior players in Carl Robinson, Jimmy Brennan and Danny Dichio who were also baffled sometimes at the things he would do or not do. It was very unsettling at times so I had to look up to those older pro’s and ask for guidance off them as I was still young at the time as well. Mo never really talked to the players and spoke about a style of play he wanted to use which I think didn’t help us throughout the season, because if  you have a set way and style of playing then everyone knows there jobs.

Since you left the MLS has moved up on leaps and bounds over the years do you still follow the MLS ?

Yes of course twitter keeps me up to date with all the activities that go on at Toronto FC and when Carl was still playing I watched out for his results.

Would you ever consider a return to the MLS whether it is back to Toronto or somewhere completely new ?

Yes I would, like I said I still feel I have some un-finished business in Toronto and it would be a dream to return. For me I have learnt a lot more about the game from my experiences in the past and would definitely bring a better Andy Welsh back to Toronto, than what people saw the first time.

Even though you was only in Canada for five months what would you say were your stand out moments in the red and black ?

My first goal, my assist against New York is what I am well known for in Toronto as well as getting to the by-line and crossing for others. Playing in the 80,000 seater stadium in Kansas City I think it’s Aztec stadium, in monsoon conditions and I should of had two penalties that night and I think my last game at home to Chivas USA was a good game too for me.

After TFC you moved to Blackpool FC, was it always your intention to one day move your soccer career back to England ?

I did always want to return to England but didn’t think it would happen so quickly.

Did you miss Canada once you returned to England ?

Massively, so did my wife after about two weeks we were missing everything. We had also bought a house in Toronto but never got the chance to move in to it.

Being born in Manchester you follow the red side of the city. How long have you been supporting the Red Devils for ?

Since I was 7 years old.

What would be a successful season for Man Utd in your eyes ?

Taking the league back off Man City!

What player do you think is key to ensuring the season is going to be a successful one and why ?

Robin Van Persie, he will score goals and allow Rooney to drop a little bit deeper to get on the ball and make more things happen.

Sir Alex is coming ever closer to this retirement date, what manager would you like to see in charge once he does call it a day ?

Have not got a clue, it will be a sad day when he retires and a hard act to follow would be putiing it lightly.

Where would you like to see your career in a time period of five year’s ?

Still playing professionally as high up in the leagues as possible.

What advice would you give to any budding youngsters who are keen to follow in your footsteps ?

Enjoy it as much as you can listen to the people who have been there and never stop learning and working hard.

Best MLS Game You’ve Played In

Vs Chicago at home the seat cover game!

Best Goal Scored In MLS

Only goal vs Houston.

Best Player Played Alongside In MLS

Carl Robinson.

Best Player Played Against In MLS

Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

Best Friend At TFC

Carl Robinson.

Favourite MLS Stadium

BMO Field

Best Game Played In

VS Manchester United in premier league we lost but got to play against the team I support.

Best Goal Scored

For Sunderland against QPR at Loftus Road it was a volley.

Best Player Played Alongside

No Comment.

Best Player Played Against

Paul Scholes.

Pre-Match Superstitions

Being a catholic I don’t have any superstitions I just say a prayer before I go out.

Best Friend

No Comment.

Team Supported Growing Up

Manchester United.

Favourite Stadium

Old Trafford.

Favourite Food

Anything I love food.

Favourite Drink

Coffee.

Favourite Holiday Destination

Anywhere hot.

Favourite Film

Too many to mention.

Favourite Song/Band/Artist

Killers, The Script, The XX ,

First Car

Fiat Punto

Hobbies And Interests Outside Of Soccer

Currently doing a degree in psychology.

What Would You If You Won £1Million

Go crazy (haha)

Teammates – Toronto FC

Loudest

Probably Me or Maurice Edu.

Quietest

Marvell Wynne.

Most Intelligent

Marvell Wynne

Least Intelligent

No Comment

Best Trainer

Me or the older lads Robbo (Carl Robinson), Jimmy (Brennan) or Chris Pozniak was a very good trainer.

Worse Trainer

Collin Samuel.

Biggest Moaner

Jeff Cunningham.

Funniest

No Comment.

Most Skilful

No Comment.

Worse Taste In Music

Tyrone Marshall.

Worse Dress Sense

Marvell Wynne.

I would like to thank Andy for his time and efforts during the interview process.

By Anthony Bedworth

@maplesoccer123

@soccernightexcl

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