Jason Garforth has no qualms being the underdog.
"I've always coached minnows," said the 50 year-old native of Britain, who moved to North America some 15 years ago and was confirmed last week as the newest head coach for the Cambrian Golden Shield men's soccer program.
"My academy is a minnow club compared to Woodbridge Vaughan. They would have 300 players tryout for one squad: I have twenty. But if I have twenty players that I can get to buy-in to my program, then it's easy."
Easy might not be the word of choice for those who understand the landscape of OCAA soccer, when describing the challenge lying before the man who help found County FC Academy in New Tecumseh, located between Toronto and Barrie, west of the 400.
Over the course of the past 25 years, every single provincial championship in the sport has been claimed by one of the five following colleges: Humber (12), Algonquin (9), Durham (2), Seneca (1) and Fanshawe (1) - all schools blessed with a considerably more sizeable student-base than Cambrian.
"It's the challenge of it all - this opportunity intrigues me more than other offers," said Garforth. "I've always been a firm believer that coaching at a larger club is easy. It's tougher to build from the ground up."
"It will really get me engaged, because I've never had a losing season, in my life, ever," Garforth added. "I don't want this to be, at my age, the first time."
Mind you, a year ago this time, Frank Anselmo was voicing similar sentiments. The 2019 Shield squad, with Anselmo at the helm (he would give way to Milton Lessis late in the year) posted a record of 1-5-2, missing the playoffs by 16 points.
Still, Garforth lacks not in confidence, a belief in a formula of soccer success built on more than 40 years of involvement in the sport, split over two continents (three if you include the work that he has done to promote soccer in Nigeria).
"I just found that there is not enough structure to soccer in Canada; everything is constantly changing," he said. "I play a certain style of football. I prefer an attacking, physical style. The physical style is easier for Canadians, but tactically, that is where the struggles happen."
"If you are playing a tactical style of football, you've got to have the right pieces there."
Through his work with a variety of youth teams at his academy, Garforth has guided winning teams - consistently. "When it comes to training, I am very demanding, even at the early ages," he said. "We train a lot."
Having coached both U16 and U18 teams while in Florida, Garforth admits to feeling prepared to tackle all that is involved with post-secondary student-athletes. He is also aware that there is a need to close, to a certain extent, the on-paper talent gap required to make post-season play a reality in Sudbury.
"I've already started recruiting," he stated. "Because some of the players here (in southern Ontario) know that I'm coaching, I am hoping to get some to Cambrian, which is only going to benefit the school."
Though he might not currently be involved with a competing OCAA soccer program, Garforth does have a daughter, Sasha, who is part of the Lakehead Thunderwolves women's indoor soccer program.
The T-Wolves will generally compete at events which also involve top-end Ontario college programs, with coach Garforth often on hand, as a supportive parent, but also witness to the level of play.
Through his work with his academy, Garforth has maintained one primary goal: "I want to give Canadian kids the opportunity to play football abroad. My thing is trying to help players get overseas, players that are actually signing contracts and staying there."
"That is my thrill."
To that end, he will continue to reside in the south, where his current soccer commitments remain.
"As soccer resumes, I will be staying there (in Sudbury), but not living there full-time," he said. "But we want to have some training sessions, because the rumour is that they (OCAA) might be doing a spring season of some sort."
Even more than usual, 2020-2021 will have its share of challenges.