Scott Arfield rifled home what he thought was a 93rd-minute winner away to Nashville. A win would put Charlotte level on points with DC United in the final Eastern Conference play-off spot, so the midfielder decided it was a moment to milk his ‘salute’.

He sprinted past Nasvhille’s home crowd with his finger over his lips before unveiling the celebration that Rangers fans came to love during his five seasons in Glasgow. It is the third time Charlotte fans have been treated to it since making his debut in July and one that is catching on.

For the genesis of the celebration, Arfield casts his mind back to summer 2018 when he was holidaying in Portugal between his move from Premier League side Burnley to Rangers.

“I thought it would be amazing to have something personal with that size of fanbase and the Jean-Claude Darcheville celebration (a different kind of salute) was cool. Then, every morning I came into the canteen, Tom Culshaw (assistant manager) would start shouting, ‘There’s the Mountie!’, because I was playing for Canada and he knew that’s what they call the police,” Arfield says.

“Every time he shouted it, I did the salute back. I was desperate to do it in a game but I never scored until Villarreal in October. The fans were up in the top tier behind glass and some were saying I was just looking to see them, but, no, that was the celebration”.

Scott Arfield puts it away to give @CharlotteFC the go-ahead goal with moments left in the match! 🤩

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 3, 2023

The former Canada captain has taken up e-biking, while his daughters Bonnie and Bettie have started at a British school. After 233 appearances, 43 goals, 19 Old Firm derbies and 63 European appearances, Arfield decided it was the right time for MLS. ** **

“When I started playing for Canada, MLS interested me. I was close to going when I left Burnley but the lure of Rangers was too much. My Canada team-mates were in the league, so that whetted my appetite, but so did hearing about the lifestyle from Matt Polster and James Sands. I wanted to give my girls an adventure to remember, too.

“I did some research on the fanbase and it’s not that common to get 40,000 in an NFL stadium. Once I spoke to Charlotte, I was desperate to do it.”

The 34-year-old believes the standard of the league is a lot better than many in the UK give it credit for, but he did experience what it is like to face someone who is on a different level from nearly everyone who has ever played the game when he came up against Inter Miami captain Lionel Messi last month.


“I tried to tackle him and he made me cuddle my team-mate — there’s context to that. I’d been running about trying to get a touch and he had been standing still,” says Arfield.

“He just waits in pockets and then when he gets the ball, he can manipulate it at full speed. He can completely switch it on from 0 to 100. Playing against Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba was incredible. Messi was sublime, Busquets phenomenal. Our game plan was to stop Busquets getting it as he averages the most passes to Messi, but he’s that intelligent he takes you into areas and opens it up for someone else.”

Messi making 2 Charlotte players bump into each other by casually dribbling by…#Messi𓃵

— MLS Moves (@MLSMoves) August 12, 2023

Arfield made his debut as an 18-year-old with Falkirk in 2007 and is determined to make good on his goal to play until he is 40. Some players dread the cliff-edge that comes with retirement. Not Arfield.

“I’ve thought about it a lot and, touch wood, I’ll be all right. I’ve got other things in my life. I’ll need to play five-a-side but in terms of missing it and having nothing else in my life, I’m not one of those guys.”

Arfield has different routes he could pursue, but the more traditional path of coaching is one he believes he can have success in. It is his former Burnley team-mate Ben Mee, now at Brentford, he sees himself joining forces with.

“We’ve spoken about being a coaching partnership in the future as we were room-mates at Burnley for five years and we’re still very pally. Even as a player he had that manager’s temperament. He was durable, thoughtful and always looked for the best in his team-mates. Ben has done his coaching badges, so I need to get on with that.

“There are probably only one or two others I’d consider, one being Andy Halliday. We don’t know who would be the manager and the assistant, though. We’re both quite methodical in our thinking but Andy has a bit more of a snap and you maybe need someone who can be erratic, turn tables upside down, make people uneasy.”


Arfield was a popular figure at Ibrox (Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)

Arfield is half-joking, but his personality and ability to connect with team-mates and backroom staff have made him a popular figure at all his clubs.

“It’s an undervalued gift as you think everyone has it — but the older you get, the more you realise they don’t. I’ve got that chameleon thing where I can adapt to anyone and any surroundings, so that would be my USP in coaching.”

Being a leader should not be a problem for Arfield given he was a frontman. He and a few mates started a band called The Begbies — named after Robert Carlyle’s character in Trainspotting — but that came to an end once he was given an ultimatum by his Falkirk coaches.

“I stupidly told Falkirk TV about the band and how we had a gig coming up on the Saturday night. We lost 3-0 to St Johnstone that afternoon and I turned up at the gig,” he says.

“You only got 80 people usually, but there were 250 fans from just about every club in Scotland. I’d had a few beers and was buzzing after it but the papers ran the story. I got brought in the next morning: ‘Do you want to be a footballer or a rock’n’roll star, son?’.

“I asked my best mate Liam Corbett, who was the guitarist, whether we were going to have a good go at it. He said, ‘Are you serious? Go and be a footballer’.”

Arfield has established relationships with many Glasgow-based musicians, including postman-turned-TikTok sensation Nathan Evans, whose cover of a 19th-century sea shanty song The Wellerman was a No 1 in the weekly music charts of seven countries in 2021.

“I’ve written about 10 songs and I’ve got a lovely video of Nathan singing one I wrote about my daughter, Bonnie Be You. I sent him the chords and he recorded it. I played it to her and she thinks it’s a hit,” says Arfield.

“My mates are predominantly musicians or creative people. I get on with everyone but I’ve only really got 10 proper mates. I love sitting about, having a thought, finding a lyric, picking up a guitar and suddenly you’ve made something.”

Broadening his horizons is a big part of what brought him to Charlotte, but he had to look further afield for a taste of international football, too.

Despite making 17 appearances for Scotland Under-21s, he had not received a senior call-up by 26 and that is when his Canadian heritage — his grandfather was based there in the army and his father was born in Toronto — opened a door.

“The only time I spoke to Gordon Strachan (then-Scotland manager) was when the Canada FA put the change of allegiance into the Scottish FA,” says Arfield. “We had a conversation and I said it was definitely what I wanted to do. What happened after that was amazing. You see a different side of the world and it helped get me out here.”

He made his debut in 2016 and was named captain in September 2018 by John Herdman, who left the role last week to take over at Toronto. Arfield played every game in Canada’s run to the quarter-finals of the 2019 Gold Cup but, despite remaining a regular at Rangers, his involvement in Canada camps dwindled.

His last cap came in a 4-1 CONCACAF qualifier against the United States in November 2019 and, after more than a two-year absence, he announced his retirement from international football in January 2022 10 months out from the World Cup.

“I wouldn’t be human if I watched the World Cup and thought, ‘I had a chance to be there’, but I don’t have one single regret. Retirement was an easy decision. I spoke to the manager numerous times and he wanted to bring through the younger players. I wanted to win the league again with Rangers.”

In his final home game as a Rangers player, Arfield was one of five long-serving players to say farewell to a fanbase and a city whose intensity he had grown to love.

“I took the kids to school and a driving instructor had a boy on a lesson and told him to pull over. The instructor was a Celtic fan. The wee guy was a Rangers fan so I told him to get out and I’d take him for a lesson.”

Across his five years, Arfield won a league title in 2020-21 and a Scottish Cup in 2021-22 — but a domestic haul of two trophies from a possible 15 ** ** does not sit right.

“There is immense pride in representing the club, moments I’ll never forget”, he says, before pausing. “But there are huge regrets that there were so many trophies we didn’t win.

“You can’t pass the blame. We were a strong team. I speak to fans and ex-players who say our Europa League final team (they lost in the final to Frankfurt in 2022) was better than the 2008 UEFA Cup final team, but that means nothing.”

Giovanni van Bronckhorst masterminded the run to the final and helped Rangers qualify for the Champions League for the first time in a decade. Four months after that, though, having recorded the worst group-stage performance in the competition’s history (conceding 22 goals in six games) and trailing Celtic by nine points in the league, he was gone.

“We did ** ** well to get to the Champions League but we didn’t deal with the realisation of how good these players are and let it manifest into the league campaign. We were getting heavily beaten and then trying to get the levels up again on a Saturday, it was probably a hangover from that.

“Gio was tactically amazing in those Europa games. We usually saw it the day before. He studied opponents meticulously and whatever things he said would happen, did. If we did win that European final, then his (Gio’s) Rangers career could have been so much different.”

It was Steven Gerrard, now managing Al Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia, who signed Arfield in 2018.

“With Steven, I remember we signed Lassana Coulibaly and we were doing this passing exercise. He was a warrior and all-action but pinging the ball wasn’t his forte. On this particular day, he was to ping it out wide to Borna Barisic. He couldn’t do it and Gerrard, without even warming up, just came over and said, ‘Just do this’. He hit this diagonal six inches off the ground for about 60 yards, incredible. He couldn’t understand how someone couldn’t do that.

“After the first six or seven games I played, he pulled me in and hammered me. I thought, ‘Fair play, I get it’, and I went on a run after that. He had that switch and there were loads of moments like that, but there were no grudges like with other managers.”

With Rangers struggling to find form and trailing Celtic, can Arfield understand why some fans believe the defence of James Tavernier, Connor Goldson and Borna Barisic, a constant of the last five years, lack a winning mentality?

“It’s extremely unfair. Mentality can come in many ways. Tav has played more than 400 games and never misses anything. Talk about mentality as a professional, how many would crumble at just the thought of going to play in front of 50,000? It’s a completely different thing. If you’re putting yourself on the line every time, then sometimes you’re going to lose.”

Arfield is out of the tinderbox of Glasgow and glad to have a break from what he views as the monotonous league format that sees teams play half the league four times a season. He has a desire to play in Scotland again but for the next two months, his focus is on saluting his way to MLS play-offs.

(Top photo: Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images)