Regarded as one of the biggest signings in FC Edmonton history, attacker Dean Shiels comes to Edmonton with invaluable experience in hopes of helping the club win its first North American Soccer League (NASL) championship in 2017.
The Magherafelt, Northern Ireland product started his career in England with the Arsenal youth academy in 2001 working with coaches such as Steve Bould and Neil Banfield, who are now part of manager Arsené Wenger’s first-team coaching staff. Shiels was also around for Arsenal’s most historic season when the Gunners won the English Premier League undefeated in 2003-04.
“It was a great educational experience for me, especially at a young age,” Shiels said. “The coaches there were brilliant and there was no better place for me to learn. Being around that team, especially when they were the invincibles, was incredible.
“There was such a big first-team squad, and it was even hard to get a reserve-team game because there were so many good players. I knew I needed to play regularly, especially at that age, so I decided to move on in hopes of more first-team football.”
Shiels’ decision to move on paid dividends as he became a common figure in the Scottish Premiership. He went on to sign for Hibernian, where he made 117 appearances over five seasons. The 32-year-old also played for the likes of Doncaster Rovers, Kilmarnock, Rangers and Dundalk. However, His time at Kilmarnock was the most impactful after having the opportunity for play under his father Kenny Shiels, who was the manager for Kilmarnock at the time.
“All my success is down to my father,” Shiels said. “He was the one who got me out of bed in the morning when I didn’t want to train. He taught me great discipline and showed me what it would take to become a professional. He trained me a lot, especially when I was younger, and he’s given me important advice throughout my entire career.
“That year was a really important year [for Kilmarnock]. We won the Scottish Cup, beating Celtic in the finals. It was a great year and it’s something Kilmarnock fans will all look back and remember well.”
Shiels is used to one thing, and that’s winning trophies. The attacker helped Rangers earn three consecutive league championships from 2012-16, which saw the Scottish giants rise from the fourth tier back to the Scottish Premiership. Shiels won the Scottish League Cup with Kilmarnock in 2012 and the Scottish Challenge Cup with Rangers in 2016. Shiels hopes his experience of winning trophies will help push the Eddies over the line in 2017.
“No matter what age you are or where you are, you need a winning mentality,” Shiels said. “That’s the most important thing. The belief, the desire, and knowing what it takes to win is going to be important this season.”
The former Northern Ireland international is part of the FC Edmonton contingent that travelled to Manchester for the club’s preseason tour. Travelling and competing during preseason against highly-skilled English sides has put the team in a good position heading into the first league game of the season. For Shiels, the trip has been a perfect way for the new players to get to know their teammates.
“The team is beginning to gel and we’re getting to know each other,” Shiels said. “Obviously the results have been secondary [in pre-season], but its important to gain confidence and get to know how [manager Colin Miller] wants us to play. You need competitive games in preseason and that’s what we’ve got.”