PUEBLA, Mexico – Canadian Under-20 national team defender John Dollery may sound like he’s from the south of England, but he’s as Canadian as they come.
Born in Calgary, Dollery moved to the UK with his family at age six but has never forgotten where he came from. He jokes that he’s drawn the occasional puzzled look or confused question when someone spots the pair of ice skates in the back seat of his car.
He signed his first professional contract with Crawley Town of England’s League One at the end of last season, but his heart remains at home.
“I’ve always wanted to come back and try to help Canada become as good as they should be,” Dollery said after Canada’s training session on Monday. “The opportunity for Canada is massive and I want to be a part of that.”
It’s a refreshing change from what Canada have been used to in recent years when the likes of Jonathan de Guzman and Asmir Begovic, players who were born in Canada, opted to play for other nations. And it’s not lost on Dollery that he hails from the same city as Owen Hargreaves, who famously elected to play for England over his homeland.
Despite only living in Canada for a fraction of his life, Dollery is just as eager as anyone at the prospects of facing the United States on Tuesday (6 pm ET, Fox Soccer, sportsnet.ca in Canada) with a chance to help the Canucks qualify for their first FIFA U-20 World Cup since 2007.
“I’m Canadian at heart,” he said. “I was born there and I’m one of the guys. I want to be a part of it and I want to get to the World Cup.”
Dollery appeared on the radar of the Canadian Soccer Association after team staff did some research looking for players around the world with Canadian connections. They noticed that he was born in Canada and asked former Canadian international Marc Bircham to have a look.
After Bircham gave the CSA his thumbs up, it was a quick process to get him a passport before getting him into his first Under-20 camp in South Florida last September.
Dollery hopes that he can be part of a movement within the Canadian program that will close the gap with Tuesday’s opponents and hopefully get Canada back to the World Cup at the senior level.
“The opportunity for Canadian football to progress and become what they should be,” he said, “to rival the US is what I’m really hoping for.”