Two former members of the Canadian men's World Cup team are beginning new careers this week. How they fare in their new jobs will be as much about the networks they can build, as it will be about their individual determination to succeed.
Last week, Randy Ragan was named the Chief Technical Officer (Soccer Operations) of the Ontario Soccer Association, a new position that replaces the position of Director Technical, vacated by the retirement of Jim Cannovan.
Ragan has not played for Canada since 1986, but his is a name that all Canadian supporters will be familiar with. He was a member of the only Canadian men's team to qualify for the World Cup, in 1986, and he also represented Canada at the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Ragan was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2002, and he brings to the OSA a wealth of experience in the game at every level. He also brings a legal and administrative background that will prove to be very useful.
Ragan worked for many years at Legal Aid Ontario, and more recently as Acting Director of Research Supports Services and Contracts Manager for the Associate Vice-President (Research) at the University of Guelph. His experience in all of these areas will be of benefit when it comes time to tackle some of the challenges faced by the OSA.
Fresh start for Ontario
There is a growing level of dissatisfaction with the player development structure currently in place in Ontario, as it is felt that it alienates players who do not live in the Greater Toronto area. Building relationships with clubs and districts in outlying areas will allow the OSA to widen its net when it comes to identifying players with potential, which should improve the OSA's ability to produce players for Canada's various national teams.
This is an area of importance for Ragan, and one that he is capable of addressing effectively by using the contacts that he has established in the soccer community over the years. Recruiting some of his former national team colleagues to spread the word and build relationships at the club and district levels will make reform more acceptable because it will be coming from respected individuals within the game.
It is not an easy job, by any means, but it is one that is of the utmost importance as Ontario seeks to improve its ability to develop players. I suspect that Randy Ragan brings the right blend of abilities to be a very effective leader in that regard, not just in Ontario, but across the country as well.
Identifying and recruiting players is surely on the job description of Toronto FC's new assistant general manager, recently retired skipper Jim Brennan.
When news broke this week that Brennan was hanging up his boots, I was inundated with messages questioning the timing of the announcement. Why now? Is he being forced out the door? Why not retire in the off-season?
I have to admit; I wasn't really surprised by the decision, or the timing of it.
At a press conference on Wednesday to make the news official, Brennan stated that retirement is something that he has been thinking about for some time. As my colleague Nigel Reed so aptly put it, "you're a long time retired" and that is something that makes the decision to call it a day a formidable one for any athlete.
This was always likely to be Brennan's last season as a player, and he made it clear that he wanted to finish his career with his hometown club. That he has been able to do that - and finish off as the club's skipper - is something of which he is extremely proud.
But I suspect that the decision to retire now was not entirely his own.
Mo Johnston is fully aware that he needs to strengthen his team, and in order to do so he needs as much room under the salary cap as possible. The buyout of Ali Gerba will help in that respect, but so too will the retirement of Brennan. If the move to the front office were going to happen eventually, it wouldn't have taken much persuasion to convince Brennan to make the move now.
Ready for "proper" job
I expect to see a replacement fullback signed very soon, with one or two more players likely added to the squad in the near future. They desperately need more quality in their side, because right now they simply aren't good enough.
When he shows up for his first day in a "proper" job, Brennan is likely to be in for a rude awakening. The life of a footballer is a blessed one, and it isn't until you retire that you fully appreciate what a fortunate existence it is.
While there is plenty that Brennan can learn from "Trader Mo", he will be most effective in his new position if he sticks to his guns and is his own man. He will have developed an extensive network of contacts within the game, and it is often those contacts that can prove to be most valuable when it comes to unearthing a hidden talent.
Randy Ragan and Jim Brennan are two former players who have represented Canada with distinction over the years; I'm sure you will join me in wishing them both the best of luck as they continue their careers in Canadian soccer.
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