When Carl Valentine started out with the Whitecaps, in a program Q&A he listed his career goal as "always being the hardest-working player on the pitch." Valentine himself admits today it’s a strange thing for a young player to say and when he discovered this clipping decades later it gave him goosebumps.

Perhaps this was why fans seemed to identify so closely with him, one of the most popular soccer players in BC and Canadian history. For two decades, the work rate of #21 with the Caps and 86ers—blazing up and down the left wing at Empire and Swangard, swinging in crosses, scoring the odd goal—had been incredible and he was widely loved. A generation of parents pointed him out to their children: "If you want to be a player, you watch Carl Valentine."

Born in Manchester, England, Valentine grew up going to Old Trafford to watch Man United’s George Best, Denis Law, and Bobby Charlton weave their magic from the front row of the Paddock supporters area. In his late teens he debuted as a winger with Oldham Athletic of the old English Second Division. By his third season in 1979, Valentine’s strong play was attracting attention of First Division clubs, but it was a $100,000 offer from the Whitecaps that brought the 20-year-old to Vancouver, where he’s remained ever since.

He fortuitously joined the greatest Whitecaps squad to date, helping the Caps to a memorable NASL Soccer Bowl championship. With 100,000 celebrating the team’s arrival back in Vancouver, Valentine thrilled the masses with his now-famous victory cry: "You are the number one fans and we are the number one team!"

Over the next twenty years, Valentine became the Whitecaps/86ers all-time leader in match appearances with 409 and ranks third with 65 goals and 69 assists. He remains one of the top scorers in NASL history and stands 15th overall in assists. In 1987 he scored the first-ever goal in 86ers club history and played key roles in four-straight Canadian Soccer League championships from 1988-91. From 1994-99, he served as the 86ers’ playing coach. In the winters, he tore up the professional indoor leagues with Cleveland, Baltimore, Kansas, and Tacoma.

Granted Canadian citizenship in 1984, in Valentine’s international debut he set up both Canadian goals versus Honduras in a 2-1 victory that qualified Canada for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, to this day still Canada’s only World Cup appearance. He played in all three of Canada’s World Cup group-stage matches and would total 31 international appearances between 1985-93 scoring one goal.

Returning to the Whitecaps in 2011 as club ambassador in time for Vancouver’s return to top-flight North American soccer, Valentine was named one of the first four inductees into the Whitecaps’ Ring of Honour in 2014.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.