"The more I find out, the less I know." You said it Johnny Nash, you said it.
So, by now you've probably read the news about Toronto FC's coaching changes announced today. Bob de Klerk "promoted" to Technical manager, which as per TFC's website means he will..."be responsible for Toronto FC’s technical program, including advance and international scouting, as well as serving as the technical conduit between the First Team and Academy program. He will also assist players transitioning from the Academy into the First Team and support the education of Toronto FC coaches at all levels."
Jim Brennan meanwhile, as a reward for a year of fetching coffee and making fun little CCL promos as Mo Johnston's assistant, and just getting going with his second year of coaching the under 17 team, now takes his place as assistant coach with the first team.
People have been expecting changes for a while now, what with TFC's not so great 0 and 8 start to MLS, but most thought that for better or worse, advancing to the Voyageurs Cup final would have bought everybody a couple of weeks. Instead of a big clearout though, we now get this minor change, one that leaves us with more questions than just TFC's traditional "what the hell is going on with them now?" I'll get into those questions, and try to hazard a guess at some answers after the jump.
First up, Jim Brennan? Really? To me this just seems like more MLSE cronyism. After Preki and Mo's firing, Tom Anselmi spoke proudly of the investment he's making in developing Canadians like Jimmy, and it seems like that's very much an ongoing project. Hey, it's great for Jimmy to get to try out in pretty much every aspect of the organisation, and I'm sure very nice for Anselmi to have his boy on the inside and keeping a proper eye on Winter, but in what way does this help TFC? As tweeted by the Yorkies earlier today: "I'd so love to be a fly on the wall the first time Jim Brennan tries to tell Torsten Frings how to play football." Are TFC fans supposed to be placated by the heartwarming tale of the promotion of a club legend and wall of honour member, cos I think that one lost it's allure quite a while ago. Maybe it's supposed to make our hearts glow with pride at seeing another Canadian given a go, it certainly would fit the pattern of TFC and all of MLSE really, wrapping themselves in the flag to deflect criticism.
As for Bob de Klerk, well it was presented as a promotion and one that will give him a much wider influence on the club as a whole, but it all seems very vague as to exactly what he'll be doing, and how he'll fit in with Paul Mariner as Director of Player Development, Earl Cochrane as Director of Team and Player Operations and Thomas Rongen as Academy Director. Just how many people do TFC need to fit into management positions? Is this just another buffer between Tom Anselmi and accountability when further shit inevitably hits the fans and demands for change get louder? Or is this just the first step that will eventually see others, whether Mariner or Rongen move in the other direction, closer to the first team? And what about Aron Winter, still technically at the head of all this as the Technical Director? I'd assumed that if push came to shove he'd have a cosy role waiting for him upstairs, (which for the record I'd be in favour of) but how many of those cosy roles can there really be? Is it now first team coach or nothing for him?
What exactly was Winter's role in this manoeuvre? He dutifully answered questions and offered the explanation that this was his idea, or at the very least it was something he was very much on board with as best for the club, but it seems a very dramatic abandoning of his right hand man de Klerk. Was this a compromise forced on him from above? Was it a desperate last ditch attempt to placate those who may be pressing for a more total makeover? Did he throw Bob under the bus, or just realise that he couldn't do anything to save him?
The battle between what's been described as the Dutch idealists and the MLS pragmatists is definitely heating up, and though we'll probably never know exactly who's behind this particular move, it's very much TFC politics as usual. A seemingly very minor move that drastically tips the balance of power at the first team level in favour of one particular group, while actually weakening the coaching group behind Aron Winter, and the teams short term prospects, it's all so baffling, and at the same time all so business as usual.
No matter your opinions of this whole 4-3-3 philosophy, is there anyone out there who thinks Jim Brennan would make a better assistant coach than Bob de Klerk? Didn't think so. Is there anyone that thinks he'd be Aron Winter's preferred choice over Bob de Klerk? Again, didn't think so. No, this wasn't about improving results right now, and one way or another I really can't see this being the end of the changes. This is nowhere near over, but the final big question is will it be for the best? Is there anyone out there with any kind of confidence that TFC will come out of all this with a better setup than they have now? Didn't think so.