John Herdman says while he has got job offers, he is staying on as Canada coach
Canada head coach John Herdman watches his team during practice at the World Cup in Doha, Qatar on Monday, November 28, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, February 1, 2023 2:12PM EST
After a morning of speculation fuelled by a New Zealand report that the Canada men's soccer coach had agreed to take over the 105th-ranked All Whites, Herdman and Canada Soccer put out the fire with a statement Wednesday.
“Success at this level will always invite opportunity,” Herdman said in a Canada Soccer statement. “I've received several offers in recent months, all of which I have turned down, including an offer from New Zealand Football.
“To our Canadian players and our fans, I want to reiterate my commitment to Canada Soccer and the growing of this program. At the World Cup in Qatar, our men showed the world that they belong at that level. I'm not going anywhere. We still have a job to do, and the objective is to take this team to the next level in 2026.”
Earl Cochrane, Canada Soccer's general secretary, confirmed Herdman is under contract through the 2026 World Cup that Canada is co-hosting.
“There is no doubt how much passion and commitment John and his coaching staff have poured into our men's national team program, taking our men from outsiders to our first World Cup in 36 years,” said Cochrane. “Everyone in our organization is committed to John and his coaching staff and he is the right person to take our country to new heights.”
Herdman's record at the Canadian men's helm is 32-13-5 since leaving the women's program in January 2018. And his light shines bright after a World Cup that saw Canada win a legion of fans after showing its potential in losses to elite opposition in Belgium, Croatia and Morocco in Qatar.
Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis said Herdman's recently presented blueprint for the future of the Canadian men had been “received favourably” by the organization's board.
“We all look forward to having John be our men's national team coach throughout the term of his contract,” Bontis added.
The report on Newshub, a New Zealand news service, said Herdman was “the preferred candidate” to take over the New Zealand men and that he had agreed to terms, although it said no contract had been signed yet.
Herdman has ties to New Zealand, having cut his coaching teeth there before taking over the Canadian women's team after the 2011 World Cup.
Herdman left his jobs as a university lecturer and at Sunderland's academy in his native England to become a regional soccer director in New Zealand.
In 2006, after four years in his regional development role, New Zealand Football took him on and Herdman made a name for himself, first with the women's under-20 team and then the senior side.
Canada's offer to coach the women's national team with the lure of a home World Cup prompted another move around the world.
His son Jay was born in New Zealand and is a New Zealand youth international.
But short of a career switch due to family or lifestyle, leaving a Canadian men's team on the rise with a home World Cup on the horizon for the New Zealand national team seemed a stretch.
Herdman is no stranger to springing surprises, however.
In January 2018, Canada Soccer announced Herdman was leaving the women's program to take over the men and replace the fired Octavio Zambrano, who was named head coach the previous March.
Then-Canada Soccer president Steven Reed said the move was made because “we wanted to build that long-term alignment much like we've experienced on the women's side.
“When we did that organizational review, we determined that John Herdman was the right person to lead that.”
Asked in Qatar whether he would stick with Canada through the 2026 tournament, Herdman said he was staying the course.
“Eleven years of work in this country and I've been pioneering for a long period of time, and you'll not find anyone as passionate as I am about this program or about these players or about this staff,” Herdman told a news conference in Doha. “You'll not find one as passionate who wants to take the country to that next level. And you'll not meet anyone that's experienced this moment with this team - and the learning that I'll take from this to take into the next one.”
But Bontis acknowledged in November, before the World Cup, that Herdman was in demand, calling him “a very very hot commodity.”
“We want to keep him here, 100 per cent right through '22 and right through '26,” Bontis told “Behind the Bench,” a weekly coaching webcast presented by the National Soccer Coaches Association of Canada (NSCAC).
He then added a caveat.
“But I'm a realist and I'm a pragmatist. I cannot guarantee anybody on this call that John is going to stay with this organization. There's certain realities that are out there, certain career aspirations that people have. Certain financial implications that we have and limitations.”
Herdman managed to breathe life into both the Canadian men's and women's programs, leading the women to the Olympic podium and the men to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.
After taking over the women in the wake of a disastrous 2011 World Cup, he helped the team reach an all-time high of fourth in the world rankings following back-to-back Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and '16.
He also changed lives.
Former goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, now GM of the NWSL Portland Thorns, credits Herdman for helping push her to widen her horizons outside of sports.
“He basically said to me `If you think your purpose on this Earth is to kick a soccer ball for Canada, then I've failed you â€¦ You have something that is more than just the sport,”' she recalled.
“And it triggered me. And it made me ask myself `Why am I here? What is my purpose on this world?”'
LeBlanc went on to work as a UNICEF ambassador, media personality, motivational speaker, and FIFA and CONCACAF representative before taking her job in Portland.
After reviving the women's team, which flamed out in spectacular fashion to finish last at the 2011 World Cup, Herdman faced an even tougher challenge in resuscitating a moribund men's program - ranked 94th in the world, sandwiched between Gabon and the Faroe Islands, when he took it over.
The men have reached new heights under Herdman.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023.