Former United coach ready for MLS challenge
by Lee Ryder, Newcastle Evening Chronicle
Feb 13 2008
It can only be described as the challenge of a lifetime.
And when it was dangled in front of former Newcastle United assistant manager John Carver
, it didn’t take him long to accept it.
Now, with the prospect of mouth-watering clashes against Los Angeles Galaxy in the US Major League Soccer with David Beckham and his old pal Ruud Gullit, not to mention trips to the Giants Stadium in New Jersey or the RFK Stadium in Washington, it’s easy to see why the new Toronto FC head coach Carver opted to give the American Dream a real crack.
The Geordie’s lifestyle could hardly have changed more in the last few months, as he went from the doom and gloom of administration with League One strugglers Luton Town as No 2 to Kevin Blackwell to a top coaching role with a club bidding to put itself on the football map.
And while Canadian side Toronto FC may not sound like one of football giants, or in the case of Carver’s new role, one of soccer’s giants – their supporters are in fact likened to the fanatical Toon Army after serving up some crackling atmospheres.
The ex-academy director at Newcastle – who nurtured the likes of Steven Taylor, Shola Ameobi and Peter Ramage through the Toon ranks – has also just joined a club whose sparkling new BMO Field Stadium hosts regular full houses of 20,000 in front of the magnificent backdrop of the skyscraper clad Toronto skyline.
Carver told the Chronicle: “This is a really good opportunity for me. There are a lot of good things going on here and I can’t wait to get started.
“It all happened so quickly really but there is a great set-up here. The club is also owned by the same people who own the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL side in the ice hockey and the NBA side the Toronto Raptors.
“But everything is all set up here.
“I went to the Air Canada Centre just a couple of days after taking the job to the see the set up and the Spice Girls were playing that night. The whole place is all set up for the big time.
“Then just a couple of days after that it was off to Florida for a training camp to meet the new players, so it’s been all go.”
Carver – who is joined by former Toon fitness coach Paul Winsper
– takes over the reins from former Glasgow Rangers star Mo Johnston, who has now moved upstairs to become the club’s new director of soccer.
Carver added: “I had never met Mo before to be honest. But I knew what he did as a player and once I saw the ambition of TFC I was very impressed.
“Mo isn’t the only face that is familiar, though.
“We’ve got the former Sunderland striker Danny Dichio
, who is a real favourite here, and another ex-Sunderland player in Carl Robinson
“We’ve also got a guy fans back home might know in Jim Brennan
, who was at Norwich, who’s also a major player for Canada.”
Dichio, though, is a true legend already for TFC after the former QPR and Sampdoria ace bagged the club’s first ever goal.
Toronto, who finished their maiden season in MLS with the worst record in the League, took 384 minutes to net their first goal.
But when it came in the 24th minute, it secured Dichio’s place in Hogtown folklore.
For on the 24th minute mark of each game TFC fans chant the name of a player who could easily walk the streets of his native Hammersmith unnoticed but is constantly stopped in Toronto for autographs and history.
Speaking on the Toronto fans, Carver says: “A few people have told me that they are like the Newcastle fans and back their team to the hilt, so that’s a really good thing from my point of view.
“Last season was tough for them but I think they have a lot to look forward to this year.”
Carver’s bow as a manager in his own right will come on March 29 when they face Columbus Crew but it is perhaps the third game of the season that JC is most looking forward to against LA Galaxy, bossed by his former mentor Gullit.
Gullit and Carver guided United to Wembley in 1999 and he said: “The third game of the season will see me up against Ruud so it should be interesting.
“Plus there’s also the small matter of David Beckham...”
For Carver, the dream is only just beginning.