Signing with Pacific FC was, in some ways, a risk for Callum Irving.
The 27-year-old goalkeeper, left without a club after the Ottawa Fury folded in 2019, moved back to his home province last February, happy to engage in a competitive goalkeeping battle with incumbent starter Nolan Wirth.
Not quite a year on, though, that choice looks like a success. Although the 2020 CPL season was a short one, and Irving’s body of work was just six games long, there’s no denying his positive impression on the league and his club. He made the third-most saves in the CPL (tied with HFX Wanderers’ Christian Oxner), and he oversaw wins over Cavalry FC, FC Edmonton, and Valour FC.
On Thursday night, Irving could add one more feather to his cap. He’s nominated for the league’s Golden Glove award as the league’s goalkeeper of the year, alongside Oxner and Forge FC’s Triston Henry.
For Irving, though, winning the award wouldn’t necessarily be a reflection on just his own performance in 2020, but rather the defensive improvement Pacific made as a whole this year.
“It’s not something I’m ever going into a season focused on, but I think it’s a byproduct of team success,” Irving told CanPL.ca. “The individual awards will come if the team is doing well and you try and play a role within the team.”
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His role within Pacific was certainly more complicated than that of a reigning, guaranteed starting goalkeeper. Wirth had rightfully won the top job in 2019 over now-goalkeeping coach Mark Village, and he earned the first crack in 2020. Irving took over in the fourth game for Pacific’s Island Games campaign, and he posted a clean sheet against Valour. The club stuck with him almost the whole way through from there.
“Whether I was playing or whether I was on the bench, I know how the coaching staff feel about me and how my teammates feel about me,” Irving said. “And that’s the thing that I care about the most, those guys trusted me and had faith in me. It’s obviously nice to get some outside recognition as well, I don’t think anyone will ever complain about that. It’s just another step in the process.”
Irving has slightly stronger opinions on some other CPL Awards-related matters, however. Asked about the Coach of the Year nominees, the goalkeeper made his case for PFC’s Pa-Modou Kah, who missed out on a nomination to Bobby Smyrniotis, Stephen Hart, and Mista.
“There’s a lot of great coaches and a lot of great stories within the CPL this season, it’s an extremely difficult year to contend with and be a head coach for, but we saw Pa every single day,” Irving said.
“I don’t think he’s somebody that’s gonna worry about that, but for us as players to be able to advocate how much we enjoy playing for him and how much passion and effort that he brought every single day to us and to try and help the club grow.
“It kind of speaks for itself, and if it doesn’t then we’ll speak on it and make sure that it’s known.”
One more thing, of course. Irving’s teammate and Pacific’s star attacker, Marco Bustos, is up for Player of the Year.
If Irving had a vote? He wouldn’t hesitate.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “As soon as it was announced, I think I commented on the Instagram post.
“If anybody says it’s not Marco Bustos, I don’t wanna hear it.”