Whitecaps' Robert Earnshaw retires after 18-year pro career

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Image: Vancouver Whitecaps FC / Twitter

Whitecaps striker Robert Earnshaw has called it a career, retiring from playing professional soccer after an 18-year career. Earnshaw will immediately take over the head coaching duties for the Whitecaps U-14 Pre-Residency team and will also serve as the club’s strikers coach.

“I’m excited and ready to move on to the next stage of my life,” said Earnshaw. “It was important for me to retire as a player on my own terms and the opportunity to join Vancouver’s coaching staff solidified my decision. I look forward to the opportunity to share what I’ve learned and help shape the club’s young prospects. I am forever thankful to all the people who have supported me throughout the years – from my family, to my coaches, teammates, support staff, and of course the supporters.”

The 34-year-old spent just one season in Vancouver after being acquired as a free agent back in March.

Fans in Vancouver saw Earnshaw in the twilight of his career. He played at a high level overseas for a long time.

Here are a few of his career Accomplishments:

  • 59 international caps with Wales, scoring 16 goals
  • Only player to record a hat-trick in every professional league in England, including the FA Cup and League Cup, and for his country at the international level
  • Scored 220 career goals in 520 matches at the club level in England, Scotland, Israel, Canada, and the United States
  • Awarded Cardiff City Young Player of the Year in three consecutive seasons: 1998-99, 1999-00, 2000-01
  • Helped Cardiff City win promotion following a runners-up finish in the Football League Division Three 2000-01 season and again via a playoff win in the Football League Division Two 2002-03 season
  • Named Cardiff City Player of the Year for the 2002-03 season after setting the club record for goals scored in a single season with 35
  • Finished 2011-12 Football League Cup runners-up with Cardiff City
  • Helped Maccabi Tel Aviv capture the 2012-13 Israeli Premier League title
  • Won the 2015 Voyageurs Cup in the Amway Canadian Championship with Whitecaps FC

“Congratulations to Earnie on a fantastic playing career,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson. “I had the pleasure of playing with him at both the club and country level and last year as his coach. He was a model player throughout his career, approaching everyday with professionalism, demanding high standards for himself and his teammates. I now look forward to working with him and helping him in his new role. He has a bright football mind and we are excited to take advantage of that with our young players.”

“Football has been a big part of my life since I can remember,” added Earnshaw. “It’s been an honour to play for a living and I am fortunate to be able to continue in the sport that I love.”

Earnshaw wrote an open letter, showing a lot of humility and class:

Thank you, football.

Today, I announce the end of my playing career.

First, I am thankful to the people who have been a part of my journey: my friends, my dear family – my son, my three sisters, brother, and my beautiful and strong mother. Your support means the world to me. We have memories and experiences that we will forever cherish.

Second, thank you to all my previous clubs: Cardiff City, Greenock Morton, West Brom, Norwich City, Derby, Nottingham Forest, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Toronto FC, Blackpool, Chicago Fire, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Thank you to all the players that I have shared the football pitch with, the coaches and support staff for their endless of hours of support, and most important thank you to the fans.

I have fond memories of watching my mum play football in Zambia and then in Malawi where I went to school, making footballs with plastic bags, having crocodiles as school pets, and living in an African coal mine village.

I was raised by my mum, who was working two jobs and still managed the time to support me. I have no doubt that this is where I get my energy and drive. I lost my father when I was nine so I never had a father figure.

In a way, football has been like a father to me. It has taught me about life, about working hard and staying focused. Football has taught me about the world, about religion, nationalities and communities, and how regardless of our numerous backgrounds we can all come together to play a game we all love.

Football taught me how to be a man on and off the field and to be a better person. Football has given me a chance to play on the same team as some of my heroes and has also given me the opportunity to play against and share the pitch with some of the best players to have played the game, people like Ronaldinho, Del Piero, Kaka, Pirlo, Giggs, Ronaldo, Bergkamp, Henry, and Beckham – I could go on.

From kicking footballs against our garage door in Caerphilly, Wales, to growing up and playing in the English Premier League, to gracing the international stage with Wales – I’ll never forget any of it. Being able to represent every fan and every football supporter in Wales 59 times, and scoring the winning goal against Germany on my debut are great moments I share with my country and are truly special to me.

At a young age, I knew my passion for this game when I watched football on TV and specifically when I watched the USA World Cup ‘94, so it’s fitting that my playing career has come full circle to end in Major League Soccer.

After 579 matches and 236 goals later in my 19th year, I can now say this chapter is turning to give me a chance to start a different role and give back what I’ve learned and experienced.

I’ve always been scared to see the end of my playing days and now that it’s here I’m sad but excited that Vancouver Whitecaps FC have given me a chance to become the head coach of the U-14 Pre-Residency team, as well as the club’s strikers coach.

They say your life starts when you retire from football, and now I can’t wait to get started and really enjoy my other passions.

Thank you, football.

Robert Earnshaw

 

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Rob Williams Sports Editor at Vancity Buzz covering all sports in Vancouver.
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