If you haven’t yet read John Molinaro’s excellent critique of the current state of Toronto pro soccer under the bland and heavy thumb of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, please take a moment to do so. Then come right back. We have some matters to discuss.
The bit I want to zoom in on is Sportsnet analyst and former Canadian national team goaltender Craig Forrest bluntly telling MLSE castle king Tom Anselmi that TFC’s management structure needs to be fixed, and Anselmi responding “We’ll take that under advisement.”
Please allow me to amplify, just in case anyone in the MLSE candy shoppe is nibbling a tasty bit of Canadian Soccer News along with their morning fudge.
Tom Anselmi and MLSE are at their most dangerous when they are deciding who should be in charge of TFC’s football operations.
The three most shattering blows ever struck against this fragile franchise were Mo Johnston 2006, Mo Johnson 2009 and Aron Winter/Paul Mariner 2011. It is this blog’s belief that the apparently imminent default decision of Paul Mariner 2013 will prove to be hammer blow number four.
Folks, there’s a very limited number of times anybody can hit anything that hard, and expect there to be anything useful left standing.
Not everyone agrees with me about Mariner. My friend and CSN colleague Duane Rollins did his best to take me to Mariner school on a westbound King 504 streetcar on the bright, chilly morning of the D.C. United game.
Duane’s contacts are screaming at him that, should TFC fire yet one more head coach, no self-respecting pro within hailing distance of sanity and self-respect would ever want to come and take this job.
Of course, I’d have felt better if Duane hadn’t started quoting the Big Soccer message boards. I haven’t given a sideways damn what that poison-dripping bog swamp thinks about anything since the infected aftermath of the Columbus road trip disaster of 2009.
When any collection of characters is that wrong about something I know back to front to sideways, I’m not about to take their word for anything else.
Plus, there is a simple, one-word answer as to why, in fact, there will always be interest in the TFC management job:
And Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has lots and lots of money.
The issue right now would be: Tom Anselmi himself.
Right now, after all we’ve seen and endured and been through and are dreading having to go through again, there isn’t any sane reason left why anyone – except maybe Mo Johnston? – should ever consent to take soccer direction – in any way at all – from Tom Anselmi.
MLSE needs to hire a real president for this club – a savvy soccer guy who takes zip-zero crap from the suits – and hermetically seal him off every other aspect of their operation (except for their buoyant, chubby bank accounts).
That manager must then hire an inspired coach. And that coach must not be Paul Mariner.
Duane says – and blessings upon him for the undying passion with which he believes this – that Toronto FC needs to settle for Mariner, because yet another total overhaul would again be far too disruptive.
But Mariner is a product of the same blind, chronic incompetence that produced Johnston, Johnston again, and Winter. Oh, and Mariner. Keeping Mariner now would not stabilize anything that’s actually worth saving.
It would be more like another tragic case of the abused returning to the abuser.
Near as I can tell, it took Paul Mariner fewer than ten games to lose the room. Even in TFC hell-land, that’s some kind of a record.
No one with professional pride in their work wants to be yelled at – constantly – on every little detail of their job. If CSN founder and scribe boss Ben Rycroft badgered me the way Mariner bully-rags Our Reds, I would silently slip out the back door, and he would never see or hear from me again. And Rycroft is a real talent.
Mariner – like four of the six TFC bench bosses before him – came to the job with exactly zero previous games of division-one coaching experience. The only two who had any were Johnston and Preki, and neither has been hired by anyone to do the same job since.
Scorched earth, people. And I don’t want Paul Mariner scattering any more ashes on it.
I have no doubt at all that Tom Anselmi himself feels awful about all this. You can see a pinched kind of silent agony in his face. He doesn’t announce his post-game presence, and disappears silently out a lot of side doors.
Nor do I seriously doubt the man’s good intentions. Make no mistake, folks: without MLSE, TFC would never have come here in the first place.
But the businessman within the man needs to understand that the man is bad for business.
Not money business. Soccer business.
MLSE seems a happy enough place. All the execs have dream jobs in the candy shoppe, where they get to do admirable and profitable work. But they have no idea how to win at sports, and soccer baffles them far more than their other athletic endeavours.
Sure, there’s a place in the world for guys who can run TV empires, build condos towers on rail yards, and get minor-league hockey teams into the Calder Cup final. But there’s no longer any place for any of those guys to have anything to say about the operations of Toronto FC.
Paul Mariner 2012 is a naďve, over-matched blowhard. Yes, his work in New England earned him a shot, but so far he’s only managed to shoot his team, and himself.
The abuse can’t continue. The old decision makers cannot continue to call the shots. Within the MLSE operation, I very much like both Earl Cochrane and Paul Beirne personally. But it’s six years down a disastrous road, and no one who’s ever had a hand on the TFC steering wheel should ever be allowed to drive or navigate this bus again.
Put another way, under no circumstances would I ever allow a doctor who amputated my left leg to have a go at my right.
Away with abuse! Away with Big Soccer! Away with Tom Anselmi as president of TFC!
Let Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment continue to do what it does magnificently, and leave all future Toronto FC soccer decisions to trained, inspired, motivated, reliable, proven, accountable soccer professionals.
Let us all take that under advisement, eh?
(Oh, and my Canada-Honduras aftermath story is still coming – likely Tuesday.)