Fade out on Tom, Fade in on Kevin - Paul Giamou/TorontoFC.ca
There's little we know for sure about how Kevin Payne's time in Toronto will work out. But the immediate first impression is that we finally have ourselves a credible leader.
Day one in Kevin Payne's Toronto FC career as President and General Manager is in the books and for long suffering TFC fans, it was a refreshing one, with a press conference unlike anything we've seen in a while, oozing professionalism, experience and respect. In a word, credibility.
There were way too many specifics to cover in one article, but he spoke knowledgeably about all sorts of things, as well as readily admitting what he wasn't fully up to speed on within the first few hours at the job. He gave the impression he'll be taking time to figure out exactly what has gone wrong with TFC over the years, and what exactly everyone's roles will be once the dust settles. He also spoke at length about his methods, how he likes to build by improving what's already within the club, which sounds like a refreshing change to TFC's usual revolving door policy, and how important character is in his players. He also talked up MLSE and TFC, pretty much exclusively for the off field stuff, and how excited he was for the job, both for the challenge and for the resources that will be available to him to meet that challenge.
in the short term of the next season, we'll see how a lot of the specifics fall into place, and in the long term, we'll see how successful he can be, and there's really no guarantees there, MLS, MLSE and practically every club in every sport in the world are littered with good people and good ideas that didn't work in practice. Even if successful, it'll probably take a long time, will he be shown the patience that's been missing for so long if the road is initially bumpy? There's been too many false dawns already to be much more than cautiously optimistic.
What we did find out today is that Payne is far and away the best press conference guy TFC have ever had. Relaxed, confident, self assured, there was no need for pretence or self promotion, he's got success to speak for him. He was the embodiment of Patrick Roy's famous "I can't hear what Jeremy says, because I've got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears" line, but without the arrogance.
It was so different from what we've seen from Paul Mariner in interviews and even at town halls, confrontational and full of bluster, alternately blaming and putting down others while puffing up his own record and talents as if trying too hard to make the case that his inexperience and lack of success to date can't make.
Different from Aron Winter's stubborn denial of reality as things went wrong, as if as long as he kept saying things would work out, they would.
Questions were answered respectfully and honestly, he readily admitted what he didn't yet know, and there was no bullish talk of being very close to competitive, he even went as far as to say it was unlikely TFC would make the playoffs next year. He had no need to say "I'm very good at my job" because he's got the trophies to prove it.
More importantly, it was so different from what we've all seen too many times over the years from Tom Anselmi. To reach as high a position as he has, Anselmi obviously has a lot of talent and knowledge in many different areas, he's also clearly a very skilled corporate bluffer, so can easily waffle his way through a non answer when forced to talk about things he's not sure about. Sadly for a man in his position, football falls into that category, he often seemed confused and purposefully vague when asked to explain himself at this sort of event.
That won't be a problem with Payne, and that's the one thing we know for sure that TFC have gained. There's finally a man at the top with the MLS experience, contacts and smarts to know what needs to be done, and the confidence and self assurance that only previous success can bring to articulately and intelligently explain his plan, follow through on it and calmly defend it if and when things go awry.
Will it work? It will be a while before we know that for sure, there's many things in and out of Payne's control that will have to fall into place, but finally it seems TFC have a man who can properly lead them into being a well run, stable, respectable club. That's a start.