© Guardian Photo By Jason Malloy
Sam Smiley goes through a drill during a recent training session in Stratford.
The desire to play professional soccer burns even brighter for Sam Smiley after recently trying out with a Scottish team.
The 17-year-old Stratford resident didn’t land a contract, but St. Mirren FC coaches were impressed enough with what they saw in the attacking midfielder to invite him back. When he will return to Glasgow, Scotland, has not been determined, but Smiley said it would likely be after the summer.
The dream of playing professional remains alive and drives Smiley to improve each day.
“It got bigger and bigger every time I went out. I just wanted it more,” he said.
Playing against older, more physically mature athletes made for an adjustment period early in the tryout.
“They’re all good players, every single one of them,” Smiley said.
He spent one week training with the club’s youth academy squad. His Soccer 1 Academy teammates from Prince Edward Island joined him the next week for three games against large amateur club teams from Scotland.
“We played great,” Smiley said. “Every single one of our players played amazing.”
The Island boys went 2-0-1 during the trip, making coaches Graeme McDonald and Glenn Smiley proud.
“To perform so well against such strong opposition is a great achievement and experience for them,” McDonald said.
After the Island boys tied a professional youth team 1-1, Smiley talked to St. Mirren FC’s head scout and assistant.
“He said you’re great with your feet and stuff, and have great technical ability, just work on your strength,” Smiley said.
“Sam showed up very well training beside other young professional players,” McDonald said. “He thoroughly deserves the chance to go back and impress the coaches and scouts again.”
Smiley is training with Charlottetown’s Paul Craig, who has played professional soccer.
“I think he has an immense amount of potential,” said Craig.
“I tell him all the time,
it’s not if you’ll make it professional, it’s a matter of when. . .
“He’s good enough. He has the skill. He has the mindset already to make it, he just needs to be given the right opportunity and he needs the right person to see him.”
Craig last played professional for the Professional Arena Soccer League’s Rochester Lancers, in an indoor five-on-five circuit and has played for FC Edmonton in the North American Soccer League.
He had a tryout in Ireland about a month ago, but a groin/hip flexor injury forced to have to leave.
“I just hope that I can get (another) opportunity,” Craig said. “It’s tough with so many players. You just keep working and hope for the best.”
Smiley will continue playing with Soccer 1 Academy through the summer. The under-18 team will be competing at the Atlantic Showcase Tournament in May in Halifax.