Young Brighton goalkeeper enjoying first taste of camp with Canadian national team

·5 min read

Tom McGill left Canada for England as a boy but kept coming back to see his father and family.

Now the third-string goalkeeper at English Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion, McGill is proud and happy to be in camp with Canada ahead of CONCACAF Nations League games against Curacao and Honduras.

McGill, who turns 23 on Saturday, is one of three uncapped players in the Canada camp, joining defender Dominick Zator (Korona Kielce, Poland) and midfielder Victor Loturi (Ross County, Scotland). Zator has been invited to camp before but has yet to see game action.

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A former England youth international, McGill is now squarely focused on Canada.

"Obviously getting picked for England is a tremendous honour and that team that I was part of achieved some amazing things," McGill said from Canada's preparation camp in Florida. "But I suppose with the (England) opportunity maybe dried up a little bit, combined with how exciting this Canada team is with, combined with maybe potentially opportunities more around the first team and so on, it made it an easy choice for me.

"And I've always felt more Canadian. Just because I was born in Canada … It's not lip service. I have always felt more Canadian."

McGill was born to a Canadian father and English mother in Belleville, Ont., and lived in the Belleville-Trenton area until the age of four. When his parents split up, he accompanied his mother back to England where he grew up in Haywards Heath, some 22.5 kilometres north of Brighton and 60 kilometres south of London.

McGill stayed close to his father, who grew up in Wawa, Ont., but lives in Belleville, and has regularly come back during school and soccer breaks to see him and other relatives including a grandfather in Gravenhurst, Ont..

"And they all make a great effort to come see me … They're great and I love it over there," he said of Canada. "I love every minute."

McGill was 14 when he attended a Canadian youth (under-15) identification camp in 2014 with coach Ante Jazic. But that did not lead to anything, until now.

He started his youth career with Crawley before joining Brighton at the age of 14. He has represented England from under-15 to under-20 level.

He is now a part of the first-team goalkeeping group at Brighton alongside Spanish international Robert Sanchez and former England youth international Jason Steele. McGill has been playing for the team's under-21 side to get game action.

McGill says Brighton, which currently sits seventh in the Premier League, is a model franchise.

"They're really good at what they do," he said, calling it a "real family club."

"It's a nice place to be at," he added.

McGill, who signed a new deal with Brighton last July that runs through June, has had loan spells with Greenwich, Basingstoke Town and Crawley Town, for whom he made his professional debut against Walsall in League Two.

"I don't know what the future holds, … I haven't made a decision. I don't think the club has made a decision yet," he said of Brighton. "Because we haven't had those conversations yet."

McGill's connection to Canada also includes Canada Soccer goalkeeping coach Simon Eaddy thanks to his ties with Brighton assistant goalkeeper coach Jack Stern, who spent time in Montreal and Cincinnati earlier in his career. While Stern kept Eaddy in the loop on McGill's progress, the young 'keeper said the latest call-up came out of the blue.

"I've been on the provisional (list) a couple of times and this is the first time I was picked. So it did come as a surprise," sad McGill. "But I was always hoping for a call-up."

McGill is joined by veteran No. 1 'keeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade, Serbia) and Minnesota United's Dayne St. Clair in camp with Canada.

Canada, ranked 53rd in the world, plays at No. 86 Curacao on Saturday before hosting No. 81 Honduras on Tuesday at Toronto's BMO Field.

Coach John Herdman and fullback/wingback Alistair Johnston will have to sit out the Curacao game after being red-carded last June in a chaotic ending to a 2-1 loss in Honduras.

The home match against Honduras comes a year and a day after the history-making 4-0 win over Jamaica at the lakefront stadium that sealed World Cup qualification.

The March games are the first for the Canadian men since Dec. 2, when Herdman's team wrapped up its first appearance at the World Cup in 36 years with a 2-1 loss to Morocco.

The CONCACAF Nations League features 41 teams from the confederation split into three tiers: League A (12 teams), B (16) and C (13).

There is promotion and relegation, with teams that finish bottom of their groups in Leagues A and B relegated and replaced by countries that win their groups in Leagues B and C.

Canada, Curacao and Honduras make up Group C, one of four pools in League A. Honduras (2-0-0) tops the group ahead of Canada (1-1-0) and Curacao (1-2-0).

The Canadian men opened League A play last June, blanking Curacao 4-0 in Vancouver before losing in Honduras. Those matches came amid turmoil in the Canada camp, with players refusing to take part in a planned friendly against Panama over ongoing labour talks.

The four group winners from League A will meet in June in a knockout format, featuring semifinals, third-place match and final in Las Vegas.

The top two teams from each of League A's groups automatically qualify for the 2023 Gold Cup, as do the four group winners from League B. The remaining four Cup berths will be decided in a playoff.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2023

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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