James Merriman patiently paid his dues as understudy to two Pacific FC head coaches and positioned himself as the logical heir apparent for the headlining role on the bench when the opportunity came.
The 36-year-old Nanaimo native was elevated to PFC head coach Friday with Pa-Modou Kah moving on after guiding the Tridents to the 2021 Canadian Premier League championship and being named CPL coach of the year. It was only a matter of time before Kah would be poached by a Major League Soccer organization and he departs to become head coach of North Texas SC of MLS Next Pro, farm team of FC Dallas.
“I’m very excited to join North Texas SC and to continue my development as a coach,” said Kah,” in a statement.
“I would like to thank … the Hunt family for believing in me.”
The 41-year-old Kah, a well-travelled pro capped 10 times for Norway, reflected on his adventurous two seasons on the Island with PFC, the first season played in a bubble on Prince Edward Island in 2020, and the second season leading to the 2021 CPL crown.
“I’m very proud of what we accomplished this season with the championship,” said Kah.
“We went through a lot as a team so I want to thank the players, the staff and the ownership. In my two years here we accomplished a lot so I will always remember my time here well.”
One of the PFC assistant coaches, 27-year-old Vikram Virk, will be joining Kah in MLS Next Pro with North Texas SC. Virk was also Victoria Highlanders assistant coach for two seasons and head coach for one.
Merriman steps up into the PFC head coaching position after being crucial in building the Trident roster over three seasons as assistant coach and technical director, heavily tapping into his connections during seven previous years with the Vancouver Whitecaps MLS Academy program.
“James has been with this organization since day one and has been instrumental in building the core that brought us a championship,” said Pacific FC general-manager and CEO Rob Friend, in a statement.
“Off the field, what he brings to the community as an Islander, is so important to what we’re doing as an organization to build a strong team for the Island as a whole.”
Merriman considers it the chance of a lifetime to be a pro coach on his home Island.
“I definitely didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to coach a professional team on Vancouver Island but that’s what the CPL is doing, creating opportunities like this,” he said.
“It’s obviously very special to be able to live my dream of being a head coach for a professional team, especially on Vancouver Island.”
Merriman said the foundation is there for continued success for an organization that not only won the CPL championship to qualify for CONCACAF League play in 2022 but also beat the Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS and played Toronto FC of MLS tough in a 2-1 semifinal loss in the 2021 Canadian Championship.
“I’m excited to build off what we did last year and what we built over the last three years and take it into the next season,” said Merriman, who plans to carry on with Kah’s style of “high-pressure football.”
Added Merriman: “We’ve created a family and the organization has trusted me to move the team forward. We want to win all three competitions this year – CPL, Canadian Championship and CONCACAF League.”
Merriman becomes the third head coach in PFC history following Kah and 25-time capped Danish international Michael Silberbauer, now assistant coach of 20-time Swiss Premier League-champion FC Basel.
“I learned from both of them and it gave me time to grow as a coach and prepare for this role to put my own stamp on the team,” said Merriman.