Martin Nash and Jordan Santiago join Wheeldon in moving over from PDL champs to Cavs FC
By Matthew Gourlie
Cavalry FC has found two good men to join their ranks.
Tuesday, the Calgary-based Canadian Premier League named Martin Nash as Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s assistant coach, while also naming Jordan Santiago as the club’s goalkeeper coach.
Nash and Santiago both worked under Wheeldon during Calgary Foothills FC’s Premier Development League title-winning season this past summer.
“As we’ve been going through our building process, it’s about the people,” said Wheeldon who is head coach and general manager of Cavalry FC. “When we were putting together who we wanted to help build us I couldn’t think of two better people than (Nash and Santiago).”
Nash will serve as the technical director for Cavalry FC in addition to being Wheeldon’s assistant coach.
“To us the term ‘serial winner’ is selling him short,” Wheeldon said. “He’s a fantastic person. He has the culture of winning in his DNA. He has great sporting heritage within his family and we’re delighted to have Martin join us as one of the builders of this project.”
Nash, 42, collected 38 caps for Canada and won two A-League with Rochester in 2000 and 2001 and two USL titles with Vancouver in 2006 and 2008. Nash spent four seasons as an assistant with the Ottawa Fury and has also worked as an assistant under interim Canadian manager Michael Findlay in 2017.
“This summer we really got to work closely together and we created a culture and a team that was able to excel and ultimately win a championship,” Nash said. “We all know what we want and the type of player we want and the type of person we want in our organization. We’re all on the same page and that should make it easier to make decisions moving forward.”
Nash was a key piece of Canada’s 2000 Gold Cup winning squad and also was a started on the 2007 Gold Cup semifinal team.
Santiago, a youth product of the Calgary Blizzards program, joined Cardiff City as a teenager, but wasn’t able to make a first-team breakthrough during his five years in Wales. He played for SC Veendam in the Dutch second division before retiring at 22 to begin coaching in 2013. He worked as the lead goalkeeper coach for West Ham United’s youth team.
“What’s great about Jordan and why it’s important that he’s part of this building process is that he gets the system,” Wheeldon said. “When you’re building something like this I think you need people around you who know the system, know the flaws that they’ve gone through and with Jordan he had to leave Calgary to pursue his dreams. He went to England and Holland and when he returned he still had the desire to grow the game.”
Santiago is only 27, but has been busy working with Foothills, Mount Royal University and the Calgary Rangers youth program this season.
“I moved away when I was 16. There was nothing here for kids. University wasn’t really an option if you wanted to play pro because there was no pathway,” Santiago said. “Over there I had a couple of really good coaches and managers. Someone who was almost like a father figure to me was Martyn Margetson — he was the England (goalkeeper) coach at the World Cup this year — and he kind of put his arm around me and took me in.
“The thing here is, it’s about development. It doesn’t matter if it’s at a young age when I’m coaching at Rangers or if it’s at the PDL this year with Marco (Carducci). You’re developing players to move on and grow.”
The CPL’s Got Game? open trials begin this weekend in Halifax and will continue across seven cities giving the CPL coaches a chance to evaluate and unearth talent nationwide. Given their familiarity with their Foothills players, Cavalry looks to be in good shape to hit the ground running in 2019. Wheeldon said his club aims to build a foundation of local players.
“We’re going to look at local first. We’re looking at the local amateurs, the semi-pros, the promising youth academy players,” said Wheeldon whose club is hosting the Alberta open trial. “From there we’re going coast-to-coast. Martin has been in the game and around the Canadian professional game for a long time. We have a deep network of players and agents that we’re currently dealing with. We’ll look nationally… and then the final piece for us is the imports — somebody who is going to help the Canadians improve and put bums on seats. We recognize that it is an entertainment industry and we have to put on a show as well.”