Following disappointing turnouts to several try-outs throughout the winter — including one in January which Pickett called the final “yardstick” — the former Challenge Cup coach and player felt like bringing a team back to the Corner Brook area for this upcoming season wasn’t meant to be.
But a last-ditch Hail Mary, in which Pickett and other members of the group spearheading the effort personally called players they felt were capable of playing, resulted in one more try.
Suddenly, the turnout they were looking for was there. And remained for each practice afterwards.
And just like that, Steers Insurance Corner Brook United was born.
“It was very close,” Pickett, a Marystown native, said Wednesday night of the team dream being put back on the shelf.
He said when he called potential players, he stressed the importance of having a Challenge Cup team in the area again and the positive impact it would have on minor soccer players and the community.
“When we made the personal contact, I think that’s what did the trick,” he said.
There are about 24-25 players currently on board, which fits in well with Pickett’s blueprint of having 18 core players, with a reserve list of six to eight players that could be brought in if needed. Those reserves would still be eligible to play in the local senior men’s league — the 18 core players will not — but would join United during their twice-a-week practices to keep up to speed.
A final roster will be made official following tonight’s practice and, if available by press time, will appear in Friday’s edition of The Western Star.
United opens its season on May 23-24 at Wellington Street Sports Complex against the other expansion club this year, the Conception Bay South Strikers. Joining those two squads for the 2015 campaign are defending champion Holy Cross Crusaders, Feildians, St. Lawrence Laurentians and Mount Pearl. Each team plays a 20-game season — there will be no abbreviated schedule for the west coast club this year, as was the case during its last season of existence in 2010 — with five weekends home and five on the road.
Pickett is aware there will likely be early struggles as his players adjust to the speed of play in the Challenge Cup setup, but he’s confident the group he has to work with will be competitive. In fact, the goal this year isn’t just to get the team back on the field, but to finish in the top four and be playing off for the Challenge Cup on Labour Day weekend.
“I think if we didn’t want to try to do that, there wouldn’t be much point in playing,” he said.