John Carver (second left) will try to bring some of the fiery passion he showed at Newcastle United to Toronto FC. ( Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Soccer: John F. Molinaro
Meet the new boss: John Carver is no soft touch
Last Updated Friday, March 28, 2008
by John F. Molinaro, CBC Sports
John Carver doesn't mince words.
The new Toronto FC coach speaks plainly and directly, unlike his predecessor Mo Johnston, who had a knack for delivering colourful — albeit, sometimes confusing — quotes to the media when he coached the Major League Soccer team last year.
"If you don't step up to the plate, there is no home run for you at the end of the rainbow," Johnston said during one news conference late in the season in a classic example of the Scot mixing his metaphors.
The point Johnston was trying to make was that none of his players at the time were guaranteed a spot on the roster for the 2008 season and that they were essentially playing for their jobs. His statement required some clarification, and its meaning was only deciphered after the assembled journalists asked follow-up questions.
With Carver, there is no need to ask follow-up questions. You understand exactly what he means the first time, and he gives a straight answer to a straight question. Asked for his reaction following Toronto's recent embarrassing 2-0 loss to the Charleston Battery in a pre-season contest, Carver told reporters, "In all my years in the game, that's probably the worst performance I've ever seen."
Therein lies the difference between Carver and Johnston. When Johnston was in charge of the team, before he was promoted to club GM in February, he was cagey and guarded, and you never got a true sense of what he really thought.
With Carver, what you see is what you get. There's a level of transparency with the Englishman — in his words, thoughts and deeds — that wasn't there with Johnston when he was the coach.
Carver's only been on the job for two months, but we already know what his playing philosophy is, having gone on record that he stresses hard work, defensive stability, taking calculated risks, and having the fullbacks play a major role in the team's buildup play.
Carver's simple approach is exactly what Toronto FC needs after it won only six of 30 games in its inaugural season under Johnston, who didn't seem to have a defining philosophy at all and showed more than a few hints of tactical naiveté.
'I'm a bit of a taskmaster'
What's more, Carver runs a tight practice session, unlike Johnston. When Carver spots something he doesn't like, he immediately brings the action to an abrupt halt and barks his objections in a concise and deliberate manner. Once he's got the message across to his players, play resumes.
"I'm a bit of a taskmaster, as you can see from what we've done here today. I want them to be fit and I demand the best from my players and I want full commitment from them," Carver said after a recent training session.
Carver, 43, came to Toronto after serving as an assistant manager at Newcastle United under the legendary Bobby Robson, and he also had a short stint as caretaker manager at Leeds United in 2006.
When Carver first arrived in February, the general belief amongst reporters who regularly cover Toronto FC was that the club hired him so that Johnston could still pull the strings, while having a patsy in place to take the fall should the team endure another dreadful campaign.
Toronto FC officials didn't exactly do its part to dispel that assumption in its press release announcing the hiring of Carver when it stated, "Carver will collaborate with Johnston on roster decisions and managing the team on the field."
And when reporters showed up at a Toronto FC training session at BMO Field in February and saw both Carver and Johnston on the field as the players did drills, well, what were we in the media to think?
But Carver insists that he, and not Johnston, is in charge of running this team.
"I have to say this: every single day I've been here, Mo hasn't interfered one little bit," Carver told CBCSports.ca. "He told me the soccer side of it is mine and that he'll deal with everything else, and he's been true to his word, and that shows fantastic respect for me."
"I'm in charge. Absolutely," added Carver with complete authority and conviction in his voice.
Toronto FC will struggle again this season, but it won't be for a lack of leadership and coaching from John Carver.
- Opportunitas Aequa: Soccer with a social conscience
- 'It was time to walk away': Jason de Vos
- Bordeaux a sip away from winning French title
- Greg Sutton: Standing tall once again
- Toronto FC has serious problems at the back
- Getafe can hold its head high
- Meet the new boss: John Carver is no soft touch
- South American stars add flair to MLS
- What is Mo Johnston waiting for?
- Valencia's season goes from bad to worse
- There won't be a third comeback for Ronaldo
- Canadian coach doesn't fault de Guzman for Dutch decision
- Webster decision could be the second coming of the Bosman ruling
- Instant replay has no place in soccer
- Time for Europe to quit whining about the African Cup of Nations
- AS Nancy is turning heads in France
- Blatter's quota system is misguided
- Lanús' title victory offers hope to soccer fans
- Euro failure an opportunity for England to rebuild
- Italian soccer's problems rooted in serious social issues
- FIFA world player award is a farce
- False dawn on the horizon for Juventus
- Deification of Jose Mourinho is premature
- No more Mr. Nice Guy for Mo Johnston
- Rest in peace, Antonio Puerta
- CSA continues to hijack Canadian soccer
- Shinawatra stain points to the moral corruption of English soccer
- Toronto FC is the hottest ticket in town
- Toronto FC can't use injuries as an excuse
- Giggs a class act on and off the field
- Juan Pablo Angel gives MLS a credibility boost
- Flying Donkeys get wings clipped
- Toronto FC players, coach caught in a catch-22
- Mitchell's legs cut out from him by Canadian soccer officials
- No peace in the valley for Charlton Athletic
- Veron proves you can go home again
- Toronto FC in good hands with Mo
- Manchester United doesn't need Hargreaves
- A strong case for the defence: Paolo Maldini
- Man U and Ronaldo: a match made in heaven
- Sevilla makes Madrid, Barcelona take notice
- Please say it ain't so, Zizou
- Riquelme gets a second chance at Boca
- England is more pussycat than lion
- Apathy is Italy's biggest soccer woe
- Magath's firing makes little sense
- Ronaldo hoping for Italian renaissance
- Olympique Lyon still looking for respect
- Coming to America: David Beckham
- Chelsea feeling blue without John Terry
- Success comes at a price for some Brazilian players
- Hooligans are running amok in Argentina
- Deisler's tale is of hope, not depression
- Thirteen years of hurt for Marseille
- Romanov is making Hearts bleed
- Del Piero's love affair with Juventus
- Manchester stands United
- Beckham's Spanish dilemna