Christian Oxner is a name familiar to anyone who has followed university football in Nova Scotia over the last few years. After an impressive spell between the sticks for the SMU Huskies, it was no surprise to see Oxner selected for the HFX Wanderers XI for the summer friendly against Fortuna Dusseldorf. During the match Oxner produced several eye-catching stops before becoming the hero in the penalty shootout when he produced a fantastic save to send Wanderers on their way to the win. And that day in July is where we began…
I’d like to start by talking about July’s match against Fortuna Dusseldorf. How did your selection for that come about?
I think my selection came about from consistently performing at the university level and club level for Dirty Nelly’s FC.
There’s a fantastic picture floating around of the match winning penalty save. What was going through your head in the moments before the penalty? Did you base your decision of which side to dive on the player’s run-up or was it instinctive?
It was an instinctive heat of the moment play. I wish I could tell you everything I was looking for but in case any strikers check out this article I can’t give away my secrets.
As a Halifax boy, you came through the youth system here. What difference do you think the CPL will make to how youth soccer is approached in the province?
I think it gives the province what it’s been lacking for the longest time. As a kid you have a lot of programs that keep you playing at a high level consistently until you’re about 17. After that you wonder what’s next. I think having a CPL team will answer that question for the younger generation.
Something I’m interested in is how Canada is going to develop its own soccer identity with the start of the CPL. What qualities do you think a player will need to be successful in Canadian soccer?
I think Canadian soccer is going in a great direction. I think players are starting to develop a lot better skills on the ball. Hopefully we can develop a possession-based approach but having the CPL around will help in developing Canadian players for that next level.
You were drafted by Stephen Hart in November, is he a coach you’ve worked with in the past?
I haven’t worked with him. My first time was in July for the friendly. Before that he ran a few training sessions I was a part of but that’s it.
Another man you’ve worked with before is Michael Hunter, a member of Hart’s coaching team. What qualities will he bring to the club?
I’ve really enjoyed working with Mike. He teaches modern day goalkeeping. A lot of coaches focus on the basics but when you want to take your game to the next level there’s so many little qualities you need to add. Mike has helped me develop these qualities and develop an elite mindset to take my game to the next level.
What are you expecting from February’s trials?
At the least a roster spot. I want to go out there and prove that everything I do on and off the field is deserving of a roster spot.
Who are the goalkeepers playing today that you admire and why?
The goalkeepers I admire most today are Alisson, Kepa and Ter Stegen. I think they have playing styles closest to the ones I’m trying to mimic. They are modern day keepers who are good with their feet and play outside the confines of their 18 yard box.
I remember listening to Pep Guardiola when he was in charge at Barcelona. Victor Valdez had just made a huge error by passing to a Real Madrid player who went on to score. Afterwards, Pep said "The perfect image of this game was that after the goal Victor Valdes continued playing the ball. Most goalkeepers would boot it, but Victor kept playing the ball. I prefer us to lose the ball like that but give continuity to our play" How much do you think the modern goalkeeper is judged on his ability with his feet, not just his hands? Do you think the rewards of playing this way outweigh the risks?
I think there is no risk anymore because it is expected of a goalkeeper these days. The days of just making saves are over. There are no longer 10 players on the pitch, but 11. Having confidence in yourself is something you need as a goalkeeper. Players can go out on the pitch and lose the ball 20+ times in a match and score a banger and be remembered for it. Goalkeepers can keep the ball out of the net for 89 minutes, make one blunder, and be remembered for it. I view goalkeeping as making the right decision and if you do, the execution will follow. If a mistake is made because of my decision, then I have to re-evaluate what I’m doing. But if it’s just the execution itself, it needs more practice on the training pitch to fine tune that area of my game.
On a recent episode of the Peter Crouch podcast he talked about goalkeepers being a little different from the rest of the squad. They always tend to be a bit weird, he said. Obviously, his comments were tongue in cheek, but do you think there’s any truth in the goalkeeper being a different type of character than the rest of the team?
The way I look at it everyone else goes up for the ball with their heads and I get to use my hands. I think I’m the sane one out there. There is a different type of character needed for sure though. The goalkeeper is a very mentally strong position. You have to be willing to be brave and confident in yourself to take risks that can make or break games. You also need to be strong enough to keep going when you make a mistake that may result in a goal.
And finally, a QPR question, because I know you’re a fan. Adel Taarabt, genius or fraud? It’s a question I’ve never been able to figure out the answer to.
The fact I would bring him back to this QPR squad today to help push us into that promotion spot means... genius. Come home Adel!
Thanks for your time, Christian. Good luck in February!