Heath eyes a strong finish to final season with Cape Breton

Heath eyes a strong finish to final season with Cape Breton

When Stuart Heath moves on from the Cape Breton University Capers soccer program in November, he thinks fans will mostly remember him for his beard.

"I look a bit like the Capermascot," Heath said. 

In his five seasons in Cape Breton, Heath's had to groom his game as much as his beard. Initially starting as a centre back, Heath made the switch to striker and has provided Cape Breton with some timely goals since. 

"I like scoring goals," Heath said. "It's a lot more fun than kicking people."

During his five year career with Cape Breton, Heath has netted 14 goals to go along with seven assists in 44 games played. The Capers' captain is already set to outpace his production from last season, in which he scored 6 goals.  

He's currently tied for second in the AUS with 4 goals early in the 2018 season. Two of those goals were game winners and he's also tallied 2 assists for the number-one ranked Capers. 

But before Heath could find the back of the net as the Capers' striker, it was his job to prevent that from happening. 

Heath first got his start in soccer at the age of five while walking the dog with his family in Liverpool. 

"There was a team playing and their goalkeeper got hurt, so they asked me to play," Heath said. "I remember getting the ball kicked at me a lot. We were beaten like 8-0 but I wanted to play and I wanted to get good at it"

However, his days as a keeper were short-lived. There reached a point where he couldn't reach the crossbar, so he was forced to try a different position. 

Heath made the move from England to Belfast when he was 10 years old. He says the roughness of Northern Ireland's capital has informed both the person and soccer player he has developed into. Growing up in a city so rich with history didn't jump out to Heath until he was able to contrast with Canada.

"It made me a stronger person," Heath said. "I live near the peace wall [in Belfast] so I of grew up in a culture where people are stuck in their ways. Canada's obviously a lot safer and it' more friendly. There's a lot less hostility and the history isn't really the same"

The lack of city life in Cape Breton allows the Capers to focus on manifesting winning habits, Heath says.

"For football and university I've enjoyed the smaller setting," Heath said. "If you're in a big city there's a lot of distractions. I think that shows for a lot of our teams on the court and the pitch. They're very focused in on the sport"

 

 

Heath credits Capers head coach Deano Morley with ushering in a professional culture to the program, which culminated in a national championship last year. 

"Deano's came in and he's changed the entire culture of the team," Heath said. "Everything's more structured towards a professional outfit like you would see back home. A lot of us are Europeans and we grew up in professional academies. They're extremely structured day-to-day."

Morley recruited Heath to become a centre back when he was playing summer soccer in Kingston, Ontario. On their first phone call, he made a bold promise to his potential recruit.

"He said 'Give me four years and we'll win a national title'", Heath said.  

Four seasons later, and Heath captained the Capers to back-to-back AUS titles and a national championship win. Heath says the team is full of leaders, but being the oldest adds some weight to his voice. 

"I'm quite opinionated and don't really mind sharing that in the right manner and I think that's a big part of what helps me towards being our captain," he said. "Guys can come to me" 

Heath hopes to finish his AUS career with another championship at home and a second national title in November. 

"I haven't lost a game with this team in quite a while," Heath said. "It would be nice to go out without losing one. Winning AUS again in front of our fans would be just as big as winning nationals"