Red-hot Jackson ready to lead Canada into Gold Cup

Simeon Jackson of the Canadian National Team

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TORONTO — Coming off an emotional club season in which he helped lead his team to the English Premier League, Canadian international Simeon Jackson is looking forward to helping lead his national side next month at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

While Jackson has always been willing to play anywhere on the pitch for his country, he thinks his talents are best suited for one particularly important facet of the game.

“I’m a goal-scorer,” he told reporters by phone on Tuesday. “I want to score goals.”

The 24-year-old striker has certainly staked his claim as a goal scorer at the club level, hitting a late-season hot streak to strike nine times in the final eight league matches for Norwich City, including the lone goal in the match that secured promotion for the Canaries.

Jackson hopes to translate that torrid form into success at the national team level this summer, starting with a friendly at Toronto’s BMO Field against Ecuador on June 1. Jackson is a native of the Greater Toronto Area, and says playing in front of friends and family is always something he looks forward to.

“It’s always good to be playing at home,” he said. “All the guys are going to be looking forward to that.”

He noted that the Ecuador match is not just a regular friendly, but rather an important test less than a week before Canada kick off their Gold Cup campaign. This year’s tournament is even more important to the Canadians because it means more time together ahead of World Cup qualifying, which begins in the fall.

Jackson says that while the players value the preparation the Gold Cup provides, they also see it as a momentum builder. To that end, he stressed that Canada will be focused on doing as well as possible.

“We did well in the last one and there’s no reason why we can’t do the same [this time around],” said Jackson, referring to the 2009 tournament in which the Canadians won their group before falling to Honduras at the quarterfinal stage. “[We] have to go in there looking to progress and go all the way,” he added. “I believe we can do it.”

It is that kind of confidence that has made Jackson a near automatic selection for coach Stephen Hart in recent years. Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Hart said he was pleased Jackson had overcome a mid-season slump — which included a considerable amount of time spent on the bench — to become a force during Norwich’s promotion push.

“[The Canadian coaching staff] always felt that Simeon needed the opportunity to play,” Hart said. “He was not playing as consistently as he would like, especially for players that play in the striking position, they need to get into the rhythm of the game and there are spells where they’re not scoring.

“In the last few weeks he’s done tremendously well and played a big role in [Norwich] going up to the Premiership, so of course I’m delighted.”

Hart has employed Jackson as a winger in recent matches, but hinted that he may use the Norwich star at his more favored striker position in future games.

For his part, Jackson says simply representing his country is good enough, regardless of where he is on the pitch.

"It's the best feeling in the world,” Jackson said, “to go out there, put on your national shirt, and play for your country."