Junior Hoilett, right, has established himself as a solid Premier League player, but his future with Blackburn is in doubt. (Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
It is one of the most tantalizing stories in Canadian soccer. It has become a long running saga without a conclusion. Fans and media alike have been clamouring for an answer only to be left hanging. Theories abound but no one knows for sure how it will end.
It seems we are inching closer to the outcome. Talks are ongoing which may well impact the decision making process. Then, for better or worse, we will know, once and for all, whether David "Junior" Hoilett wants to play for Canada.
It will be a defining season for Hoilett. At 21 years of age, the Brampton, Ont., born winger/forward is a wanted man. A long-term contract extension is on the table from Blackburn Rovers, the club which has nurtured him from promising teenager to English Premier League starter.
Rovers manager Steve Kean says they are "getting there very slowly" in regard to the negotiations. Probably too slowly for Kean's liking, who knows time is the enemy. Hoilett's current contract expires at the end of the season but any new deal must be inked much sooner than that.
By January 1 to be precise. If the year turns without a signature in place, Hoilett will then be able to talk to other clubs and walk away from Blackburn as a free agent next summer. His rise from reserve team prospect to EPL goal scorer and creator will have caught the eye of many rivals in recent months.
Junior Hoilett has been as coy as he has been consistent about his international future. He has repeatedly refused to make a commitment to Canada, or any other nation, on the grounds he wants to first establish himself at the club level. It is no longer an issue - he has now achieved that goal.
Whether or not he remains with Blackburn, Hoilett's future is secure. He is most certainly part of Kean's plans, but is Kean part of Rovers'? Despite an unexpected victory over Arsenal, fans' protests persist about his leadership. Regardless of public backing from the owners, Kean's continued employment at Ewood Park cannot be taken for granted.
If he were to leave, how might that impact on Hoilett? The young Canadian trusts Kean, who believed in him and helped launch his career. If Kean were no longer around, Hoilett would just be another name on the roster to an incoming manager. He might have to fight to establish himself all over again.
A vulnerable young pro might get lost in the mix as a new coach attempted to steady the ship. Confidence is absolutely essential for an emerging player to be successful. Its antonym, uncertainty, is always lurking in the shadows for the day that player's name no longer appears on the team sheet.
Hoilett cannot allow himself to think that way. He has made the breakthrough and proved he has the ability to compete at the highest level. What he must continue to do is play his natural game and not allow off-field distractions to affect his performance.
Should he sign now and ensure his financial future, or wait it out and see what offers come his way when the transfer window re-opens in January? One way or another, Hoilett's fledgling career is fast approaching a critical crossroads.
Then there's Canada. Head Coach Stephen Hart has made several unsuccessful attempts to persuade Hoilett to pledge his international future to the country of his birth. Hart has shown admirable restraint and patience, but both he and we need to know: can he pencil Hoilett in for World Cup qualifying or is he another lost cause?
The new contract will be pivotal. Be it at Blackburn or elsewhere, Hoilett's deal will include a clause relating to international appearances. Club managers are selfish by nature. Understandably, they don't want their key players returning fatigued, or worse injured after representing their countries.
The longer Steve Kean can keep Hoilett to himself the better. It is one less thing to worry about from a coach's perspective in the midst of a stressful season. Kean's first and only priority is to lead Rovers to victory. To achieve that he'll need most of his best players fit and available most of the time.
Hoilett has been in England for nearly 10 years. He has learned his trade at one of the country's oldest clubs and successfully integrated into a culture where soccer is called football, and football is a national obsession. I have to wonder how much importance he now attaches to Canada's national program.
It's not as though playing for Canada would get him to a World Cup. The chances are it won't. Hoilett wasn't even born when Canada went to Mexico in 1986 and recent qualifying cycles have all ended in premature and predictable disappointment.
Frankly, if Hoilett is indifferent about representing Canada, I would stop calling. Any coach will tell you he only wants players who have a genuine desire and pride in the jersey. If Hoilett has been away too long, we must accept the inevitable, cut our losses and move on.
Junior Hoilett has a long career ahead of him. He has already achieved what so few Canadian players have done. He is playing regularly in the world's most competitive, most watched league and will soon reap the financial rewards.
It is our dream he plays for Canada. But, ultimately, it may not be his.
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