Les Lights The Touchpaper

Countdown On Among Excited Canadians

The cover of Les Wilson’s autobiography, capturing the moment Canada qualified for the 1986 World Cup finals. Tony Waiters is in white and the author is to his right, as we look.

Feeling indifferent about a major tournament that is taking place in our season? Not happy about the choice of location?

If the answer to the above questions is ‘yes’, you will by no means be alone. But stimulus has come our way, as it so often does, from a very good friend on the other side of the Atlantic.

“Cannot wait for the FIFA World Cup finals,” said Les Wilson in an email from Vancouver. “November 20 to December 18, 32 teams competing across 64 games.”

We have been fortunate enough to visit the Wilson household in the Port Moody area of the city and feel confident in suggesting that the treadmill and giant TV in that ‘man cave’ he showed us round are in for plenty of use in the next month.

The former Wolves utility player and the late Tony Waiters have their own special place in Canadian history as the only men to have led the country into a World Cup finals.

That adventure in Mexico in 1986 ended with honour but no points, defeats against France (1-0), Hungary (2-0) and the Soviet Union (2-0) in Group C condemning them to an early return home.

But there is a link in Qatar with the national team Wilson knew. Former Ipswich and Wigan defender Jason de Vos is assistant boss these days to what Wilson calls ‘the brilliant John Herdman’ but was part of the Canada team who in 2000 memorably won both the Concacaf Gold Cup in the USA and the Concacaf Confederations tournament. De Vos was also captain in World Cup qualifying games.

Manchester-born Les was very much hands on back then and was immensely proud when the nation to which he moved at the age of seven secured their qualification for Qatar in March.

Les Wilson and his wife Lois at a Hall of Fame celebration occasion.

Iraq were among the other less fancied teams in the 1986 finals. This time, the field is bigger, with double the number of sides from the Concacaf region compared with 36 years ago. The 41st-ranked Canadians (England are fifth) kick off their Group F campaign against Belgium on Wednesday.

“Memories are made of these events and I am looking forward to watching,” Wilson added. “It’s fantastic that Canada are there in Qatar.

“We wish John Herdman, who is from Durham, Jason and their very capable staff all the very best – and very best wishes to the entire team and the dedicated supporters.

“So many are pulling for Canada and I predict they could do well.”

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