Well, as the season spirals faster and faster down the toilet and the new coach bump just seems to be making things worse, the most interesting action over the weekend were the minor developments in the ongoing Jermain Defoe saga.
Of course he didn't end up being transferred before the close of the EPL's transfer window so for now he remains a TFC player, at least in name. The Daily Mail came out on Friday saying that he's not ready to wait until January and is looking to get out of his contract so he can get going in England as soon as possible. Noted truthteller Harry Redknapp is putting it out there that Defoe wants to move back, noted soccer experts Bob McCown and Steve Simmons have both said they expect to not see Defoe in TFC colours again, while the more connected writers are at least giving voice to the party line that Defoe remains committed to TFC and will be back this season. By far the most amusing article is the Guardian's Daniel Taylor doing a less than graceful 'ha-ha I told you so', mainly in Kurt Larson's direction, a riposte to Larson's 'who do you trust more, the English tabloids or the Toronto Sun?' muscle flexing on twitter. All kinds of fun. Many different sources with many different agendas telling many different reporters with their own different agendas different things. What to think? Defoe or anyone connected with him certainly haven't come out to make anything clear in that respect, unless you count this pretty weak tweet, good work random lackey.
Pretty much everybody seems to be resigned to the fact that at the very least he'll be off back to England, whether QPR (the fact that it's not Spurs is surely an extra dagger to the heart of every TFC fan, given we all now think of Tottenham as our London EPL team) or some other club, in January, it's just a question of how disgruntled he is with the whole TFC and MLS experience. If he's absolutely done with it, then I'd expect reports soon that his injury does require surgery after all, season ending no less and that he'll be staying in England for that. If he's ready to at least keep playing until this all gets sorted out, then I'd expect word that it's something he can play through and he'll be back, to give one last cruel little bit of hope to TFC fans that the season might not be totally done.
Wait and see is all we can really do for now, though some supporters have jumped straight to judgement, with this Judas 2 stick at Saturday's game. I can agree with it to an extent, and certainly don't blame anyone who feels that way, I was a little surprised to not see more reaction to the whole thing to be honest. But will they be left feeling a bit embarrassed by the end of the season. Though the cynic in me thinks they'll be left feeling vindicated, for everyone's sake, let's hope they do end up feeling foolish.
What's the rationale for clinging to any kind of hope for this situation? Well, Greg Vanney said in his post game press conference that "We know that he will be back on the 20th to join our camp and we look forward to him getting back. Clearly he is a difference maker, a big part of the club and a big part of this team. I think a lot of that has been sorted out and i look forward to him being back on the 20th...that's for sure."
Now obviously we're in the public negotiation/pr battle phase of this issue, TFC trying to appear tough and uncompromising to Defoe, Redknapp and whoever else in England, while also trying to reassure their own fans that everything's sorted out and will be fine. Who knows what's actually the current status of the whole bloody big mess, but let's look on the bright side and assume that's true.
September 20th is now out there as the earliest we'll get any kind of answer, but the chances of Defoe being fit and ready for the Chivas game on the 21st are pretty much nil, so that would leave 6 games after that for him to do something. Will he? I'd say that depend son his frame of mind and just what's happening behind the scenes.
The worst case scenario would be that Bezbatchenko and co are playing hardball, refusing to sell Defoe or at the very least drawing a line in the sand that it's going to take a great offer for that to happen. I think that would lead to Defoe either 'needing surgery' or him coming back and treating us to more of the frustrated, pouty and unproductive player we've seen recently.
Looking for the best case scenario, I can't be optimistic enough to think this will all be put behind us and Defoe will be back next season and for the rest of his contract, so instead it's time for TFC to cut their losses and try to get the most they can out of him while he's here. Play nice behind the scenes and assure Defoe that they'll work with him to clear up any contract issues and help him move on, and convince him that the remaining 5 or 6 games should be treated as an audition.
We all remember earlier in the season when Defoe was first here, enjoying his new adventure and thinking he still had a chance of making the England team. Or even when it seemed like he had a point to prove after his omission. Engaged, dangerous, productive, scoring goals and setting them up for others when defenders were paying him too much attention, he was the bloody big deal, as advertised.
Greg Vanney's talk of using high pressure to force turnovers that can lead to quick chances, of fast breaks and getting the ball forward quickly when the Reds have possession should work out very well for Defoe's style. There should be plenty of chances for him to run at the defence, or chase balls played behind the defence. It worked well at the start of the season under Nelsen, why not again under Vanney.
While I'm in no way convinced this will happen, and while I can certainly see the temptation to say fuck him and move on, Toronto are clearly in no place right now to spitefully ignore what could still be an important player for them. If he can be convinced to use these games to show QPR, Leicester or whoever else might be interested in him that he's still got it, that he is worth a bidding war, then TFC could certainly reap the benefits of that. Defoe gets his move back home, Toronto gets some goals, maybe some wins, a modicum of respectability back and maybe just maybe a playoff spot? Everyone wouldn't exactly be a winner, but they could all at least be slightly less losery than all parties seem to be right now.