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Ben Knight: Frank Yallop, come on down!


DoyleG

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Frank Yallop, come on down!

It's time Canada's finest male soccer players were coached by one of their own.

And so, just like that, the Holger Osieck era came to an end. And, like just about everything Canada's national men's soccer team did under its intense, hard-working German coach, the clues were all there, but the result still came as a bit of a surprise.

Osieck stepped aside, or was nudged towards the door - or both - in the wake of the odd and disappointing mixed message his troops sent the world during the recent Gold Cup. A bold, gutsy, inspiring win over highly ranked Costa Rica was followed by a sagging wet slap of a collapse against a dreadful squad from Cuba.

It would have seemed very odd - if it weren't so absolutely normal.

Under Osieck, Canada famously won the Gold Cup in 2000, and pocketed bronze in the same tournament in 2002. But there was also that embarrassing el foldo in the Confederations Cup of 2001, and one of the worst World Cup qualifying runs imaginable, where game after game after chance after chance went begging, with only one goal to show for it, and no chance of advancing to the big show.

But should any of us be surprised at these mixed results? Osieck constantly presented his players with mixed messages. He demanded that they never quit, and yet he publicly quit on more than one player over the years. The most famous bust-up was with midfielder Marc Bircham, who was benched and permanently bounced at the Confederations Cup in Japan. Osieck dealt bravely and gamely with the enormous problems posed by a squad of lower division players scattered around the footballing world, but he would also occasionally lose the thread, and castigate his squad for being exactly that.

Beat Switzerland! Great!! Lose to Malta!!! Lose to Malta??? Throughout the Osieck years, greatness and grimness popped up unpredictably, like opposing sides of a single spinning coin.

And speaking of coins…

There's a question that comes to me now as this particular curtain comes down. At the 2000 Gold Cup, before beating Mexico, before beating Colombia, Canada had to survive a coin toss against Korea just to get into the knockout round. Take a moment, take a pause, and ask yourself how much clearer Osieck's legacy would be if that coin had come down the other way?

…

For now, at least, 'nuff said.

So now Canada's in the market for a head coach. We have an aging, injury-prone squad. There are plenty of promising youngsters, but the older guys will still be essential if this team is to qualify for the World Cup in 2006.

Canada's got some huge problems where global soccer is concerned. There aren't enough players, and it darned hard to get them together. So why not turn the job over to someone who has been there, done that, and then some?

Frank Yallop, are you out there?

Yallop, you'll recall, put in a decade and change as a smart, tough, dependable defender for Ipswich Town, where he helped clear the decks for fellow Canadian and goaltender Craig Forrest. He was called to play for Canada over 50 times, always answered the bell and always played.

When he couldn't push his playing career into a third decade, he took up the coaching reins with the San Jose Earthquakes of MLS. Right away, they brought home a championship, on a sudden death overtime golden goal by Dwayne De Rosario. Now, De Rosario's Canadian, of course - a player who languished on the outskirts of American pro soccer for years before Yallop took a chance on him.

That's what we need, folks. Hey, I'm not saying Marc Bircham is going to lead us all to glory, but with such a small player pool, you've got to find ways to get along with everyone, because you never - never! - know who's going to be holding the hot hand on any given day.

Whether Yallop even wants the job is another matter. He's got a young family and plum job in Silicon Valley. At 39, he's still pretty young for a head coach. And he's already got a job. CSA president Andy Sharpe has let it be known he's not pursuing anyone who's still under contract. But business is business, and I think we all know that if there's enough will to do a deal, a deal will get done.

The single biggest plus Yallop would bring north is everything he has in common with Canada's players. He knows the obstacles, and he knows the dream. Heck, he shares it. It was his dream as a player, and who wouldn't love a second chance to make a dream like that come true?

When individual players come to disagree with Yallop - and it's inevitable that they will - at least they'll have a better sense of where he's coming from. This matters a lot.

Canada is a ragged outsider on the international soccer stage. Outsiders can win, but they've got to be unified. Right or wrong, there's been too much discord and disunity in the Canadian camp in recent times. If there's a better person than Frank Yallop to put things right, I don't know who he is.

This might not happen now, but it should.

Soon.

http://www.sportsnet.ca/soccer/columnist.jsp?content=20030912_132709_3704

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I agree with the argument brought forth on behalf of Frank Yallop.

Unfortunately that is the only thing I agree with in this article by Monsieur Knight.

Twice Canada advanced in the Gold Cup because of a coin toss. Twice Holger led the squad to glory (1st and 3rd). To ask us to brush reality aside and imagine what MIGHT have happened IF the coin had flipped the other way...well...it didn't. Might as well ask us what would have happened had Iraq not invaded Kuwait in 1990 and then tell us that in this new light, the US is a peaceful country.

Also, the suggestion that you should always get along with your players is rubbish. How is a coach ever going to have authority if he doesn't put his foot down? And let's point out that in the example given by Ben, Holger put his foot down with a Brit, not a Canadian. Bircham should have been grateful to be there, not the other way around.

I don't need to list all the coaches who have used tough love to get results.

Again, I'm all for Frank Yallop coming in but I don't see the need to obsure reality to make your case, Mr. Knight.

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I agree with the argument brought forth on behalf of Frank Yallop.

Unfortunately that is the only thing I agree with in this article by Monsieur Knight.

Twice Canada advanced in the Gold Cup because of a coin toss. Twice Holger led the squad to glory (1st and 3rd). To ask us to brush reality aside and imagine what MIGHT have happened IF the coin had flipped the other way...well...it didn't. Might as well ask us what would have happened had Iraq not invaded Kuwait in 1990 and then tell us that in this new light, the US is a peaceful country.

Also, the suggestion that you should always get along with your players is rubbish. How is a coach ever going to have authority if he doesn't put his foot down? And let's point out that in the example given by Ben, Holger put his foot down with a Brit, not a Canadian. Bircham should have been grateful to be there, not the other way around.

I don't need to list all the coaches who have used tough love to get results.

Again, I'm all for Frank Yallop coming in but I don't see the need to obsure reality to make your case, Mr. Knight.

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Actually I thought Ben was on the money. His thing with the coin flip was more about the perception than the reality. It's not so much a what-if thing as it is pointing out that without the '00 Gold Cup Holger's record would seem very grim. Very true.

It's not fair to characterize Bircham as a Brit, either. I don't understand why this is such a big argument these days. Why do you think he was playing for us, for the cash?

One thing that seemed kind of strange was when Ben said "It's time Canada's finest male soccer players were coached by one of their own". Are we completely forgetting that the coach before Holger was "one of our own", conceivably with similar credentials as Yallop? I know we all want to forget it, but still.

Finally, I love the term "el foldo" and I plan to use it in conversation very often.

Good article Ben!

Allez les Rouges,

M@

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Actually I thought Ben was on the money. His thing with the coin flip was more about the perception than the reality. It's not so much a what-if thing as it is pointing out that without the '00 Gold Cup Holger's record would seem very grim. Very true.

It's not fair to characterize Bircham as a Brit, either. I don't understand why this is such a big argument these days. Why do you think he was playing for us, for the cash?

One thing that seemed kind of strange was when Ben said "It's time Canada's finest male soccer players were coached by one of their own". Are we completely forgetting that the coach before Holger was "one of our own", conceivably with similar credentials as Yallop? I know we all want to forget it, but still.

Finally, I love the term "el foldo" and I plan to use it in conversation very often.

Good article Ben!

Allez les Rouges,

M@

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