They had heard the wonderful stories. Now a group of longtime Tsawwassen Soccer Club executive and coaches got a chance to get an up close look at what Mark Rogers experienced during his professional career in England.
A trip, that was over a year in the making, saw the Delta Sports Hall of Fame inductee and seven others spend nine days in the London area last month where they took in five matches and did some sightseeing.
Easily the highlight of the trip was a visit to the 12,000 seat Adams Park - home of the Wycombe Wanderers where Rogers played for the "Chairboys" from 1998 to 2004.
During that time he became a fan favourite - serving as team captain under then manager Lawrie Sanchez and affectionately being nicknamed 'Ted' after the popular English game show host/comedian Ted Rogers. He was also the club's first-ever international.
The stint included an improbable run to the FA Cup semi-final in 2001 when the Division Two side finally fell 2-1 to eventual champion Liverpool. Along the way, Wycombe stunned premier side Leicester City in the quarter-finals. The final four appearance remains one of the greatest feats in the team's 128-year history.
Rogers' experience in England earned him a spot on the Canadian national team. Chronic knee and back injuries ended the centre back's playing career at the age of 30. Today, he is technical director of his hometown club, where he lives with his young family, and offers his expertise as a regular on Vancouver
Whitecaps FC broadcasts When Rogers informed Wycombe of the pending visit with his group, the red carpet was rolled out.
He was featured in the match day program, was interviewed by the local BBC radio station and did a question and answer session in the supporters lounge. After being formally introduced to the crowd, Rogers and his friends watched from their own private box as Wycombe pulled out a 1-0 win over Exeter City on a late penalty.
The team is currently battling for promotion into
League One next season.
"It was truly one of the most special days of my life," said Rogers. "I have been back there before with my family and they always treat you like a million bucks. But this time I was sharing it with guys like Sean (McGill) who I played my first senior men's game with when I was 15. To take him back full circle was very special for me."
The trip was put together by longtime TSC executive and coach Jim Mackie who still pours endless volunteer hours into the sport. He admired the recognition
Rogers not only received at the stadium but at the pubs too, given it had been 11 years since he had stepped onto the field.
"They took us around (the stadium) and really promoted Mark," said Mackie. "There were longtime supporters who came right up and talked to him. That was really neat to see.
"In Canada, if we see guys like Trevor Linden or Cliff Ronning in a bar, we know who it is. There were two incidents at pubs where random people came right up to him. Like hockey in this country, they just really seem to know their (soccer) at almost every level."
The trip also included a visit to White Hart Lane to see Tottenham host Aston Villa, as well as Craven Cottage to watch Fulham FC.
"All of us have had kids who have gone through (Tsawwassen Soccer), added Mackie. "There were so many time constraints but finally we picked a week and said 'let's go.' We knew Wycombe was playing at home and Mark contacted the club to tell them what we were doing. It was a great time."