Rivers FC live wire Josh Banton can electrify from the back, a defender whose pace, guile and skill has jumped off the pitch since he arrived in Canada in 2017.
He came to the Great White North to play for the TRU WolfPack and, after five years in the country, has no plans to leave.
“I’ve always wanted to stay since I first got here,” said Banton, who aims to graduate next year from TRU with a psychology degree. “I knew that since Day 1. The only reason I’d leave is the opportunity to play abroad, but I don’t plan on going back to England.
“John [Antulov] has been monumental in my decision to stay. His character and influence is second to none. I like the pace of the country, the people here, how the landscape looks. I loved it instantly, everything about it.”
Banton, from London, England, has proven to be an astute piece of recruiting work by Antulov, head coach for both the Pack and RFC.
“He just has the speed, the size, the technical ability, leadership qualities, just everything,” said Antulov, noting Banton is among his top-four recruits since taking over the head coaching reins at TRU.
“He’s a physical specimen, as far as athleticism goes, one of the fastest players I’ve ever had. Defensively, an excellent one-V-one defender, and solid in the air.”
Banton was a key cog on the WolfPack club that won bronze on home soil at the 2017 U Sports Men’s Soccer Championship and was among expansion Rivers’ leaders and top players during the inaugual Leage1 BC season, which wrapped up this past Monday with title tilts at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby.
The fullback’s TRU career will culminate this year in a second shot at national glory, with the Pack playing host this fall to the men’s Canadian championship in Banton’s graduating campaign.
“The boys are talking about it,” Banton said, noting about 90 per cent of the Rivers FC men’s roster will toil for the Pack this year. “The boys are ready. That experience of playing games together through the summer is really key for us and an advantage for us.”
Banton plans to sit down with Antulov to discuss the future, which could include toiling in the Canadian Premier League or perhaps abroad.
Through July , his focus was on helping Rivers finish strong.
“Rivers, as a whole, has been a very good experience for us,” Banton said. “We’ve let everyone know that even though the results haven’t gone our way, we’re no little fish. We’re here to battle.”
DEBUT SEASON IN THE BOOKS
The first-ever League1 BC championship games were played this past Monday at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby.
On the men’s side,Burnaby-based TSS Rovers defeated Varsity FC of Vancouver 2-1 in penalty kicks, while on the women’s side, Vancouver Whitecaps FC defeated Varsity FC 2-1.
As for Rivers FC, the women’s side finished seventh in the seven-team league, with five points from a record of 1-10-1.
The men’s squad placed fifth in its seven team league, with 13 poins from a record of 3-5-4.