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  • Friday, May 26, 2000

    Canadian players wonder where club future lies

     TORONTO (CP) -- While Canada's soccer team takes part in a pair of exhibition games and a key World Cup qualifying series against Cuba, some players are wondering where their club future lies overseas.
     
     Defenders Mark Watson and Paul Fenwick are free agents in Britain, as is striker Carlo Corazzin. And forward Paul Peschisolido reportedly may be on the move from Fulham, as a new manager cleans house.
     
     "It's a funny time of the year the way the contracts are in Europe," explained Watson, who has been the rock of Oxford United's backline the last two seasons. "This is the time of the year when you make a decision 'do I sign for the club I'm at or do I take a chance on free agency?'
     
     "You basically don't know where you're going to end up. Something could work out that's financially very good for you or things might not work out for you at all. It just depends on how the players filter down through the different clubs.
     
     "It's anxious times, to say the least."
     
     More anxious for Canadians in Europe since their international calendar is out of whack with the European schedule, which shuts down to facilitate their own internationals.
     
     "If you're a non-European international, there's always a conflict," Watson said. "From Oxford's point of view, they got a fax sent through saying I could miss 28 games over the next 18 or 24 months and they said that's not really good enough."
     
     Oxford has made Watson a tentative offer.
     
     "But they won't offer me what they think I'm worth unless I retire from international football. It's as simple as that.
     
     "They don't phrase it like that but they say we will only offer you a good deal if you give us your total commitment."
     
     There has been talk in Oxford of offering Watson a pay-as-you-play contract.
     
     But Watson says he is going to talk to other teams during the summer and see what's available.
     
     "I'd be lying if I said Oxford were top of my list at the moment. I'd like to move up (to a higher division)."
     
     Injured first-string goalie Craig Forrest has gone through a similar experience at West Ham. The London club has special problems because its No. 1 goalie Shaka Hislop, currently injured, is from Trinidad and Tobago and may have to be away on national team duty the same time as Forrest.
     
     There has been talk of extending Forrest's contract but, like Watson, the real money may not land on the table unless the Canadian can commit to the club full time. Forrest says he isn't willing to do that at this time.
     
     Fenwick found himself in a club versus country row earlier this season with Greenock Morton, although it later turned out to be a contract dispute. The Scottish club dropped Fenwick who was later transferred to Raith Rovers.
     
     There has been concern at the club reportedly over the number of games Fenwick may miss while with Canada.
     
     Corazzin tied for second in Third Division scoring with 19 goals for Northampton Town but found himself on the bench for the last five games of the season. Knowing Corazzin's contract was about to expire, the English club opted to try out other alternatives up front.
     
     Captain Jason deVos is under contract at Dundee United in Scotland but says he knows bigger clubs have been scared off him because of his international commitments.
     
     FIFA is trying to solve the problem by having a standardized calendar. But that has yet to happen and because CONCACAF's semifinal round of World Cup qualifying was moved ahead, players like deVos will miss valuable training camp time with their clubs this summer.
     
     Peschisolido, meanwhile, faces a different problem. New manager Jean Tigana is looking to open use his millionaire owner's bankroll on new strikers as the London side attempts to gain promotion to the Premier League.
     
     Canadian forward Garrett Kusch has already been dropped by by Belgian First Division side Mechelen after a lengthy foot injury -- an ailment he says the team was slow to diagnose correctly.
     
     Ironically he has a job offer from a Swedish team, but only if Canada fails to advance in World Cup qualifying. They want him now and know he won't be available if Canada continues on.
     
     Watson, 29, has played for Canada 58 times. But he will be watching from the sidelines today when Canada hosts Trinidad and Tobago (CTV Sportsnet, 4 p.m. EDT) in an exhibition game.
     
     He is nursing a calf injury suffered late in the season. With his Second Division club embroiled in a relegation battle, Watson returned to action soon after and the injury just got worse.
     
     A doctor subsequently drained the calf of blood and told him to take three weeks off.
     
     Watson, who has not trained for a month, says he hopes to start jogging next week. He doesn't reckon he'll be ready for the games against Cuba on June 4 and 11.
     
     Notes: Hamilton goalkeeper Greg Sutton, who failed to stick with the MLS New York/New Jersey MetroStars after being cut by the Chicago Fire, is playing for the Cincinnati Riverhawks of the A-League ... Steve MacDonald and Alfredo Valente of the Vancouver 86ers were named to the A-League team of the week ... Canada's women's team leaves Saturday for the Pacific Cup in Australia, where they will open play next Wednesday against New Zealand. "I gave myself six months to scout players and see what kind of players that Canada had," said Canadian coach Even Pellerud. "I feel confident I have a good vision of the players, for the short term and also the long-term." ... Veteran striker Charmaine Hooper scored three goals on her return to action from a lengthy layoff due to stress fractures in her legs as the Chicago Cobras blanked North Texas before 2,400 at Soldier Field in Chicago last weekend. Hooper and Amy Apps of the Toronto Inferno were named to the W-League's team of the week ... The Inferno home opener is Sunday against the Long Island Riders at Oshawa Civic Stadium. The women's team official home venue, Birchmount Stadium, isn't available until late June. Tina Blaskovic leads the 1-2 Inferno with two goals. Toronto's Tanya Franck makes her first start of the season.




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