BURNABY, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps look close to signing trialist Damian Batt – at least if the fullback’s recent Twitter updates are any indication.
On Sunday, the Englishman tweeted a picture of BC Place along with the caption, “Looks like this is going to be my new home for football #MLS.”
The 28-year-old former Norwich City youth product, who has toiled with English fourth-tier outfit Oxford United since 2009, trained with the Whitecaps for the first time on Monday at an open practice in front of about 500 fans at Swangard Stadium, and grinned when a reporter asked him about the tweet.
“You caught me there,” said a laughing Batt. “I’ve heard some great things from Nigel [Reo-Coker] and a few of the other players. I’ve spoke to them for the last four weeks about here, so we’ll see what happens.”
Batt, who claims to be two-footed, trained as a right fullback during Monday’s session, but said he’s comfortable defending on either flank. Before settling at Oxford United four years ago, he had endured a rather nomadic experience, never spending more than two years at a single club.
“I’m more comfortable at right back, but I’m both-footed,” Batt said. “But I’m just happy to play football. I love the game that much.”
Following the trade of left back Alain Rochat to D.C. United, Vancouver have been very thin at both fullback positions. There is nobody on the squad that’s a natural fit to replace left back Jordan Harvey, and when right-sided defender Lee Young-Pyo needed a break, sophomore defender Greg Klazura failed to impress.
That meant head coach Martin Rennie essentially had to improvise, using Nigel Reo-Coker, the club’s most dominant midfielder, as a deputy fullback – hardly an ideal situation.
With 36-year-old Lee suggesting this is his final year, the club will also have an eye to next season, and at eight years the former South Korean international's junior, Batt still has plenty more football left in the tank.
“Damian’s here on trial,” Rennie said following Monday’s session. “He’s here for the week and we’ll get a good chance to look at him. We like what we’ve seen and we’re just interested to see a little bit more, so it’s nice to have him here.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.