The Joy of Soccer: Part 1 of 4
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Read Part 2 to continue the story.
Ask around the Portland Timber’s locker room about Ian Joy and here are a few of the responses you might get:
“He doesn’t like to lose.”
“He’s somebody to look up to.”
“He communicates well.”
“He’s quite the character.”
“He’s the definition of a leader.”
For somebody who’s been living in Portland for only six months and is still finishing up their first season with the Timbers, there’s little doubt that Ian Joy has made a strong impression in a rather short amount of time. Really, it’s just the kind of guy he his. The type of guy who walks around the field making sure to give a handshake and a hello to every member of the press on the sideline of a training session before enthusiastically answering all their questions. He’s opinionated, funny, charismatic, and often bold. The type of guy who will inevitably leave an impression in his wake, whether good or bad, unintentional or purposeful.
It’s one of the reasons why Coach Gavin Wilkinson chose to have him wear the captain’s armband at the beginning of the season, despite it being Joy’s first year with the club.
“I was impressed by his character, his love of the game, and his understanding of the game.” says Coach Wilkinson, “He’s confident and you need somebody leading the team who actually believes they can do it, someone who will work hard every day in training, and when game day arrives they’re ramped up and ready to go.”
Adds Wilkinson, “He brings a level of consistency, a competitive nature, and a desire and determination to win . The winning mentality, the leadership, and the passion he plays the game with, it helps to drive the guys and sets a standard.”
Understanding Ian Joy isn’t as simple as listing off a few quotes though. Joy can be charming and goofy, but can just as easily be fierce or unabashedly blunt. On the field, you may find Joy sprinting up the left sideline with an unyielding determination, perhaps in pursuit of an opposing player to make a sliding tackle from behind, apathetic about being booked for another caution so long as a possible goal was prevented. Off the field, you might find the same Joy cracking jokes (as opposed to heads), on a plane ride home at the end of a long road trip. Earlier in the season, after a tough 1-0 loss to Miami , with many of his teammates hanging their heads low, the Timber’s captain was there to stir up a few laughs and help lift the team’s spirit. He put his arm around a couple of the guys who needed it and was there to remind everyone that sometimes, the best thing in soccer is a lack of short-term memory.
“As much as losing upsets him, you saw how he shrugged it off.” Said Ross Smith. “And that’s exactly what the team needs sometimes.”
“If there’s a prank or a joke, he’s usually got his hands in it.” added Smith with a smile.
There’s a dichotomy that exists in Ian Joy – a guy who’s intense and determined, but also a guy who’s fun-loving and playful. Maybe not what you’d expect from someone who was raised in a soccer family and who had a father that played almost fifteen years professionally all around the world. You might assume that someone born into that environment would have a soccer ball waiting at their feet as soon as the umbilical cord was cut. They might grow up with the pressure of overly-encouraging parents whose screams could be heard from the stands. The expectations of a retired pro-athlete father and the surrounding soccer culture would be so great that the sport wouldn’t be necessarily taught to that individual, so much as levied upon them, whether they liked it or not.
Fortunately, for Joy and his childhood, this wasn’t the case.
When asked what the game has meant to him over his life, Joy answers without hesitation, “Soccer has taught me passion.”
So, where did this passion start? How did this 29-year old Scottish soccer player find his way over to the Northwest? Bringing all his enthusiasm, spirit, and vigor along for the ride. Where exactly, is this Joy of soccer from?
Welcome to Bo’ness
Ian Joy was born in San Diego, California on July 14th, 1981. His father, Brian, was born in England and his mother, Sylvia, was originally from Scotland. Ian has dual citizenship for both Scotland and the United States, and has spent an ample amount of time living in England as well as Germany, although, if pressed, will openly admit that he’s a Scotsman at heart.
“I’m proud of where I’m from, even if it’s a rough place.” says Joy bluntly with his trademark accent. “I pretty much grew up Scottish.”
Joy was raised for a majority of his youth in the small coastal town of Bo’ness, Scotland. Although born in California (his family lived in San Diego for a short time while his father played soccer in the NASL), Joy doesn’t remember much about his first years in America, but does feel some sentimental connection from those early days.
“I only lived in the (U.S.) until I was 2 or 3,” says Joy. “But I was always given American flags, American soccer jerseys, and stuff like that when I was younger. I still have some of them.”
Brian and Sylvia Joy did what they could to spoil their children, but times were getting tough. With two young daughters to provide for already and a new addition to the family, Joy’s parents had some important decisions to make in the summer of 1981.
Brian had decided to retire from professional soccer, the numerous injuries he’d suffered over his career had finally taken their toll. After a successful fifteen year career, playing for over twelve different teams in varying leagues, clubs such as Blackburn and Trammere of England, or the San Diego Jaws and the Las Vegas Quicksilvers from the now defunct NASL, Brian made the decision to settle down and move the family back to the United Kingdom. The family stayed in England for a short time, but ultimately available work lead Brian and the family to take root in Scotland. The family packed up all their stuff and moved in with Ian’s Grandparents in a small two bedroom house in Bo’ness.
Brian got a job at a local electronics company, which happened to have an owner who was a big soccer fan and thought it might be cool to have a former professional player around the shop. Many days were wasted talking soccer around the water cooler with the boss, but Brian didn’t mind. The job wasn’t as glamorous or thrilling as being a soccer player, but it was a good honest sales position, and it paid the bills.
Bo’ness wasn’t exactly the most exciting place to live either, nor was it the ideal place to raise a family. With a population of just over 14,000, the town was a center of heavy industry during the 80′s, mostly from coal mining, but there was a lot of factory work and some shipping business from the surrounding ports as well. Considered mainly a commuter town, it was close to the major freeways and close enough to other bigger cities where people would travel in and out to find work.
“It was not a very nice place,” remembers Joy with pride. “But it was home.”
The environment in Bo’ness could be a dangerous one for a young, impressionable boy growing up at that time. It was the type of town where the people only liked people from their own town and where an outsider was likely to get an unfriendly glare from a local if they stayed too long. Unemployment was high and there was a lot of crime, a lot fighting, and a lot of aggression running through the streets. Ian saw many people his age getting into the wrong stuff – kids smoking too young, drinking too young.
“Growing up you had choices to make,” recalls Joy. “When it came down to it, you had the opportunity to actually make something of your life and get out of town or you could simply take one of the local jobs.”
The Ineos petrochemical facility, formerly operated by BP, is a major source of employment for the residents of Bo’ness. In fact, many of Joy’s childhood friends, those who live in town, still work for the oil refinery today.
Fortunately for Ian and his sisters, they had the support of his parents and a close-knit family. Over time, Brian would start up his own business selling electronics and with Sylvia working part time at a local bank, the family was eventually able to buy their own home, only a few short blocks away from Ian’s grandparents.
“Overall, I loved my upbringing. I loved my family, loved my friends, and even liked school a bit.”
And it would be at school, around the age of 7 or 8, where Ian would play soccer for the first time. Initially it was just for fun, something to do because everyone else was playing, but soon, for Ian, it would become much more than that.
To be continued…
The Joy of Soccer – Dropping Timber’s four part series on team captain Ian Joy. One part will be posted every morning until the Playoffs begin this Thursday.
You are reading Part 1
Read Part 2 to continue the story.
Posted by Kevin