Red Deer soccer prodigy Caolan Lavery is about to live his dream.
The 19-year-old will leave for England on June 28 to join Sheffield Wednesday of the professional Championship League, which is one level below the Premier League. He signed a one-year contract — with a club option for a second year — with Sheffield last month after spending two and a half years with the Ipswich Town youth side.
“I’ve played soccer my whole life since I was about four years old and I’ve always wanted to be a professional. Signing my first pro contract was massive, especially coming from Canada,” said Lavery, who moved to England at the age of 16 to play youth soccer with Ipswich Town.
Lavery played with the Red Deer Renegades U12 and U14 teams before moving to Calgary and suiting up with the U18 Calgary Southwest United side. He returned to Red Deer for his Grade 11 year and suited up with the U18 Renegades before heading overseas with his cousin’s help.
“I have a cousin who plays with Aston Villa in the (English) Premiership and his agent got me a couple of tryouts. I went over there and showed well enough for Ipswich to sign me,” said Lavery, who was paid a living allowance with the youth team and will be cashing substantially larger cheques as a pro.
Lavery was a hit with the Ipswich Town U18s, setting a handful of records for goals scored.
“I’m a forward. That’s my job — to score,” he said.
However, he never made his debut with the Ipswich men’s team of the Championship League, and although the club offered him a pro contract, he decided to move on.
“My agent and I decided to turn down the offer because we didn’t see myself progressing very much there,” said Lavery. “We left Ipswich Town last October and tried out for a few teams and Sheffield Wednesday offered me a contract.”
Lavery, who as an underage player suited up for a few games with the defunct Red Deer men’s team in the Alberta Major League, stressed that soccer is a much bigger deal overseas than in Canada.
“It’s a lot different. When I moved to England at 16 it was tough to change from training three times a week with a local Red Deer team to going to training every day, twice a day,” he said.
“Really, soccer is like a religion there, it’s all people talk about. Like in Ipswich, for example, I was just an under-18 player but if I was like walking down the street or something, people would recognize me and come over and ask how things were going.”
The next step for Lavery is proving he’s capable of playing professional soccer. Once he’s established, he hopes to play at the top level in England; in the Premiership.
“That’s the long-term goal and if it can be with Sheffield Wednesday, then perfect. There’s always a chance for the team to be promoted (to the Premier League),” said Lavery.
The emerging pro will play his first preseason match in early July, with the regular season set to start the second week of August.
Lavery, whose Red Deer parents are from Northern Ireland, is also somewhat of an international veteran, having played a total of eight games with the country’s national U19 and U21 sides, most recently last month in the Republic of Macedonia.
“The next stage will be to play for the men’s national team,” he said.