Former Whitecaps player returning to Scottish team after injury
The Vancouver Sun – September 17, 2011

PERTH – Marcus Haber might not wear his heart on his sleeve, but his hometown is never more than an arm’s length away.

Among the soft-spoken Vancouver native’s several tattoos is an image of the Vancouver skyline backed by the phrase ‘Van City’ inked on his right forearm.

He’s traded his typical crew cut in favour of a shortlystyled Mohawk and narrow sideburns.

The 22-year-old former Vancouver Whitecap hopes his new philosophy of “new season, new haircut, more tats” will conjure him some overdue good luck as he enters his second season with Scottish Premier League side St. Johnstone.

The 6’3″ forward came up with the new catchphrase while recovering from a torn knee ligament he suffered during a game last November. The injury ended his season and thrust him into a lengthy rehabilitation process he’s only just completed.

“I worked really hard to get back. That was seven months of my life that were really difficult more mentally than physically,” said Haber. “In the early stages it was difficult because you couldn’t really do a lot. Straight after surgery a lot of it was rest and recuperation and icing it . once I started getting into the gym and actually working on my rehab, it wasn’t as difficult.”

He’s scored two goals in eight starts and 19 total appearances spread out over parts of two seasons for the Scottish side and recently made his second appearance for Canada’s national team.

St. Johnstone signed him to a one-year contract on the eve of the 2011-12 season in July after recognizing the potential behind Haber’s direct running and ability to play either up front or on the wing.

The lanky forward’s ability to hold up the ball and natural presence in the box on corners and set pieces eased the adjustment to the physical style of Scottish soccer’s top division.

“You’ve got less time on the ball over here. It’s a lot quicker . I wouldn’t say there’s a whole lot of difference between the quality of the players but I think the mentality is a bit different. You’ve got to be a lot sharper and stronger physically and it’s a lot more demanding throughout the game,” he said. He’s played in five of the team’s six games this season, three of those as a substitute.

Haber isn’t the first Vancouverite to line up for the Perth-based club.

Former Whitecaps assistant coach and national team mainstay Nick Dasovic played six seasons for the Scottish side between 1996 and 2002. He also coached Haber with the Olympic team and at the U-20 level.

“He’s well known at the club,” he said of Dasovic. “He just said that Perth is a wonderful city and the league is difficult, but if you have anything you want to ask feel free.”

Haber grew up in Vancouver but left home as a teenager to pursue the higher-calibre soccer found in Europe.

“When an opportunity to go to Europe arises it was a difficult choice, but I think [Europe] is a better place to advance in my career and learn the game a bit more.”

He played the final two seasons of his youth career for Dutch league team Groningen’s under-19 squad. He joined the Whitecaps in early 2009 after unsuccessful trials with several English teams and scored eight goals in 30 appearances for his hometown team. English Championship division side West Bromwich Albion signed him to a contract in 2010.

But he struggled to rise through the depth chart at WBA and was eventually loaned out to St. Johnstone in an effort to secure him more playing time.

The knee injury prematurely ended that loan spell but the Scottish side signed him after he was formally released by WBA earlier this summer.

Despite having no plans to leave soccer-mad Europe, the former Whitecap said that he credits starting his career in his hometown with preparing him for a life as a pro soccer player.

“That was my first professional season. I was able to get a good amount of games and a good amount of starts. I feel like I progressed a lot as a player in that short time and I still have a long way to go.”

As originally published in The Vancouver Sun