After a successful soccer career spanning 18 seasons with 13 different clubs, Robert Earnshaw arrived at a reckoning every player ultimately faces—retirement.
Now the 35-year-old Welshman is employing that wealth of playing experience as a coach with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Earnshaw is responsible for the Major League Soccer club’s strikers, while also working as a coach in the Whitecaps’ pre-residency program.
Since retiring in February after playing for one season with the Whitecaps, Earnshaw has found the career transition to be an eye-opening yet positive experience.
“To do anything for 18 years is a long time, you always want to play, as a footballer you think you’re going to play forever,” said the affable Earnshaw, who was born in Zambia and moved to Wales when he was nine. “But that’s not the case. I was lucky enough that the Whitecaps asked me to stay and share my knowledge with the team and the youth. It’s a lot of work, but I’ve enjoyed it a lot. It keeps me close to the game I love.”
Earnshaw was in Kelowna this week to share his expertise and experiences with about 100 young players during a camp hosted at the Mission sports fields by the Whitecaps’ Okanagan Centre Academy.
Academy head coach David Broadhurst said to have a player of Earnshaw’s stature pay a visit to Kelowna was a boon for the local soccer community.
“It means a lot to have the support from our club in Vancouver who are able to send recognized professionals out to the smaller communities and give something back to the players,” said Broadhurst. “To have someone of Robert Earnshaw’s pedigree here in Kelowna was fantastic and we hope it helps to inspire more young people to start taking up this great game.”
Earnshaw played for 10 years with the Welsh national team, compiling 59 caps and scoring 16 goals.
During his pro career as a forward, he scored 183 times in 467 games, including 35 in 98 games with Nottingham Forest from 2008 to 2011.
After stops in Toronto, Blackpool and the Chicago Fire in 2014, he joined the Whitecaps last year and helped them win the Amway Canadian Cup.
For Earnshaw, there were many highlights during his lengthy career on the pitch, perhaps none more meaningful than playing with and against some of the game’s greatest players.
Earnshaw cites Welsh nationals Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) and the great Ryan Giggs, who played 23 seasons with Man U and won 13 Premier League titles, among his greatest former teammates.
Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dutch stars Dennis Bergkamp and Ruud Van Nistelrooy, along with Brits David Beckham, Steve Gerrard and Frank Lampard are all among the many opponents Earnshaw felt fortunate to have shared the field with.
“As a kid, you dream of playing with great players and I was very lucky to have played with many of them, and against so many others,” Earnshaw said.
“You remember goals you scored, you obviously want to win as much as you can, but it’s really the memories you have that mean the most. I’m grateful for the career I was able to have.”