Player Profile: Stalwart CanMNT Midfield Maestro Junior Hoilett

CanMNT Midfielder Junior Hoilett on November 23, 2022

PREVIEW – The 32-year-old Canadian international Junior Hoilett didn’t have it easy when he began his footballing career. But, like the country he represents, he has shown determination, tenacity, and a willingness to succeed. Hoilett and his story have become one of the many key factors that have given rise to the success of the current CanMNT.

The CanMNT’s Important Midfielder: Junior Hoilett

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Early Beginnings

Born in Brampton, Ontario to two parents of Jamaican descent, he was an athlete since he was young. Dabbling in baseball and basketball, he committed to soccer at the age of 11. While jumping around different youth soccer academies in Ontario, it was when he was at Oakville Soccer Club in Oakville, Ontario, that he had the chance of a lifetime.

It was a 10-day tournament in Wales where he shone and perked many ears from the UK.

“I didn’t know a tournament that lasted 10 days was going to change my life,” he said in an interview with Andy Cryer of the Lancashire Telegraph back in 2010.

“But a Blackburn scout came up to my father, a number of scouts came up to my father actually.”

He clearly was a popular prospect, especially when a scout from Manchester United approached and made his interest clear. He initially trialed with United but decided to go to Blackburn Rovers instead, citing that “there would be more of a chance to break through at Blackburn.”

After a year of thinking it over, the tender-aged Hoilett made the brave decision to cross the Atlantic and play in the youth set-up for Blackburn Rovers.

A Difficult Start in England for Junior Hoilett

His first year at Blackburn was a tough one, having to live far from home at just the beginning of his adolescence, made him homesick. But, through the endless support from his mother and father, and his own resolve, he stuck through the early difficulties.

However, the problems would not stop there for the young teen. Even though he secured a professional deal at 16 years old, he was not able to play in England due to failing to acquire a work permit, so he had to go on loan and play abroad in Germany for a few years according to the Lancashire Photograph:

“It was a headache all over again when I was told I couldn’t get a work permit. But the same way as I got over the homesickness I got over this and that was by family and friends being there for me and the club of course” he disclosed in the same interview with Cryer, “[But] in the end, it has helped me.”

Once again it was the support from back home and his personal perseverance that allowed him to overcome the obstacles in his way, that lead him on the path that made him the player we all know today.

Prosperous Club Career

He spent three fruitful years in Lancashire, where he grew his skills and reputation. Totaling 12 goals in 81 appearances, he was named one of the 13 players to watch in 2012. He was known for his pace and dribbling ability, being the player with the most dribbles completed in the 2011-12 Premier League season.

Even though that same season, the Riversiders were relegated, it was still a breakthrough year for Hoilett and was swiftly bought by fellow Premier League side Queens Park Rangers. While he began brightly, injuries blighted his season and led him to play a bit-part role, meaning QPR was relegated to the Championship

He, nevertheless, stayed with the R’s throughout the next campaign and helped them secure promotion once again thanks to an 89-minute assist to Bobby Zamora in the play-off semis.

His most productive year, however, was with Welsh side Championship side Cardiff City, back in 2017-18. He tallied 12 goals and once again took a starring role in getting his side promoted back to the Premier League.

Since then, he has switched once more to Reading, just over a year ago, which remains his current club for now.

Throughout his career, he has been remarked as an avid dribbler, able to escape even the tightest of situations, and more recently, an experienced leader with a sharp vision. But for us Canadians, he was seen as a true trailblazer for Canadians in Europe’s top leagues.

Loyal International Career

Although Junior Hoilett was born there, Canada was not always his first choice to represent. According to Musthafa Ahmed of BVM Sports, he rejected Canada’s first call back in 2011, with his reason being that he wanted more time to develop at the club level.

In 2012, the Jamaican Football Federation approached his father about his availability but also gave them no definitive answer. He even briefly considered representing England, but further visa issues quickly closed that door. And so in 2015, at the age of 25, he committed to playing for Les Rouges.

In the seven years that have come since, he has seen his equal share of heartbreak, disappointment, and even humiliation. After failing to both qualify for the 2018 World Cup and go past the quarter-finals in the 2017 and 2019 Gold Cup, things seemed bleak. But Hoilett showed that typical determination and stuck through with the team. And for his reward, in 2021, his luck, and Canada’s luck, began to change.

With a new crop of young talent in the likes of Jonathan David, Alphonso Davies, and Tajon Buchanan, Canada reached the semi-final of the 2021 Gold Cup for the first time since 2007.

Hoilett was then at the heart of Canada’s historic 2022 World Cup qualification, where Canada qualified for the tournament after 36 years, and was rightly named in John Herdman’s 26-man final squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

On the Big Stage for Junior Hoilett

READ MORE: The 2022 CanMNT World Cup Preview: Looking to Make History

With a starring role in the warm-up game versus Japan where he seemed to roll back the years, Canada will now be relying on Junior Hoilett on being a leader both on and off the pitch. Indeed, it might be the very same grit that he showed throughout his career that will play an important part in Qatar, inspiring his teammates to never give up, and fight until the very end.

After losing to Belgium, the CanMNT will look to bounce back as they face Croatia at the Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan. Thar game will be televised nationally on TSN and CTV. It will also be televised live in Quebec on RDS at 11:00 AM ET.