Whatever dude, you'll be fired before I will. - John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE
Canada's selfish generation certainly hurt Toronto FC over the last few years, but how much responsibility do TFC share for creating the monster?
A few days back, prompted by Olivier Occean's passing the buck for failure in World Cup Qualifying on to Stephen Hart in an interview with Radio-Canada. Duane Rollins wrote a great article for the Score lamenting what he labelled Canada's Selfish Generation, and the lack of responsibility they take for that 8-1 game and repeated failures over the years.
One line from the article stood out to me:
It's hard to imagine a team less successful with fewer people taking responsibility and more people trying to pass the blame onto someone else for the failings. With Canada, it's always the other guy's fault.
Well, you know where I'm going with this one don't you? It's not all that hard really is it, and there's plenty of crossover between the two sides, I'd suggest The Selfish Generation have another victim in TFC.
The first couple of seasons, though hampered by the excessive Canadian content requirements at the time as well as his own scattergun approach to squad building, Mo Johnston was moving TFC in the right direction, then in the 2009 season that direction took a very Canadian turn. Dwayne de Rosario and Adrian Serioux joined Jim Brennan and Greg Sutton at the start of the season, and he doubled down on turning the first team into the CanMNT by adding Julian de Guzman and Ali Gerba in mid season.
What did that lead to? Well, it wasn't an outstanding success, but they were good enough to get to the last game needing only a tie to advance, only to shit the bed in an unthinkingly feeble fashion. Sounds familiar, no? The lack of responsibility certainly showed up as well, as who spoke to the media after the game? It wasn't the captain, star player, or high priced DP, instead those duties were left to back up goalie Brian Edwards and rookie Sam Cronin.
Cronin suggested, as did outgoing coach Chris Cummins, that there were serious dressing room issues, bad apples and all that sort of thing, and then in came Preki, the disciplinarian to sort things out. Serioux and Gerba were shipped out, and after one game, captain Jim Brennan, well much like when he didn't like Dale Mitchell, he upped and quit, though remained close to the team from his cushy new assistant GM role. de Guzman reacted to the new regime by missing curfew before the first game in New England (allegedly I think, I've heard it a lot but not sure it's ever been confirmed). Whereas Milos kocic appreciated what Preki brought and the value of all the hard running he made the team do, well de Guzman and de Rosario were a lot less complimentary, happy to blame Preki for another lost season after a group of players went behind his back to get him fired, replaced by the much friendlier Nick Dasovic.
Preki's response of course was "It's a couple of Canadian guys making those comments. That's all I have to say about that" suggesting he knew exactly how things worked at TFC. After Preki left, de Rosario ramped up his requests for a raise, his in game cheque signing the most notable incident. On the first big day of the next season, media day, with new management making brave noises about a winning mentality, their captain brought up the possibility of sitting out until he got a deal. The lack of responsibility continued through the Aron Winter reign, and after Paul Mariner traded him to Dallas, de Guzman was of course more than ready to blame anyone but himself for what went wrong in his time at the club.
TFC themselves certainly take a share of the blame here, remember how Mo Johnston talked about the importance of an eventual DP signing being a Canadian? Remember Tom Anselmi proudly talking about how important it was to nurture Canadian talent at the coaching and managerial level? There was talk that they blocked Preki from trading de Rosario in 2010, and Jim Brennan seems to have a guaranteed job for life. They practically screamed "hey you guys, you're special!" which is the last message they needed to hear.
Supporters don't help with their over veneration of Canadian players, witness the way TFC's higher Canadian content is used as a desperate "yeah, but..." against the relative success of the Whitecaps. That passport grants a lot of extra leeway and players know it.
Ever since the summer of 2009 when Mo Johnston went all in on high profile Canadians, things have lurched from bad to worse at TFC. Hopefully, things are changing and there'll be more of an emphasis on winning, on skill and character than on Canadian-ness and from that a new less selfish generation can grow. I'd hate to think that, rather than helping Canada as we all assumed, TFC is actually hurting them as much as The Selfish Generation has hurt TFC.