Richard Eckersley was signed on loan from Burnley on April 15, 2011 to become a starting fullback for Toronto FC. One of the big reasons why he was picked out of the bunch to sign was that the director of player development at the time, Paul Mariner, knew Richard from his time managing Plymouth Argyle, where Eckersley played with for a bit while he was on loan there.
Eckersley has had quite an interesting career. He spent his youth career in the Manchester United youth system, and then later moved in and out of the first team, making two appearances for the Red Devils between 2007 and 2009. He was later released, and he signed with English team Burnley, who were in and out of the Premier League in the years that he was there. But in his time there, he made no appearances with them, so let’s just say he wan’t too influential on their moves in between the two leagues. Instead, he was loaned to the likes of Plymouth Argyle, Bradford City, Bury, and lastly Toronto FC.
In 2011, Richard Eckersley provided no goals or assists for the Reds, but provided a sense of aggressiveness and some quality defence for once to the TFC backline. He quickly became a fan favourite among Toronto FC supporters, who really liked the ‘bite’ that he added. One thing that I found when I watched him was that he always seemed to pick up yellow cards. Yellow cards or not, he bought some positivity when times weren’t as positive otherwise among fans of the Reds.
In 2012, he became a mainstay in the first team, making 33 MLS appearances out of 34 total MLS games for TFC. He continued his ‘no-nonsense’ defending, only collecting two assists, but helping aid the woeful defence that the Reds had. In fact, the defence was so woeful that they led the league in goals conceded with 62.
In 2013, Eckersley still was highly valued at the club, but his appearances declined to 16 (all of which were starts) — 1438 minutes all season in MLS. The reason why his game time declined so much was because he got an injury mid-season, and he re-tore a muscle when he came back to training. Toronto FC’s defence improved a lot over the course of this season, conceding 47 goals — 15 goals fewer than the previous year.
During the off-season leading up to 2014, the TFC front office were undergoing a rebuild, bringing in players like Jermian Defoe, Michael Bradley, Gilberto, Julio Cesar, and many more players. They deemed Eckersley surplus as he was making a fairly high salary at a $310,000, and in a time of less allocation money, this was a major problem which resulted in him being traded to the top-of-the-league New York Red Bulls. When he left, there was a decent amount of disappointment from the supporters as he had become one of the fan favourites at the club.
He ended up leaving NYRB at the end of the 2014 season as he said that New York’s front office weren’t willing him to pay anything lower than the minimum MLS salary. He moved back to England for a brief spell at League 1 side Oldham Athletic, and then retired soon after in the prime of the average footballer’s career. Clearly it wasn’t the prime of Richard Eckersley’s career.
What he did after his pro soccer career is pretty interesting. Eckersley used some of the money saved up from his footballing career, with his wife, to create a ‘zero-waste’ organic supermarket in Totnes, England. The way it works is that people bring their own pots and jars and put the items that they want to buy in their own jars and pots. Their store, Earth.Food.Love, sells everything from organic spices to types of vinegar. If you want to learn more about his family’s shop, click here for the article.
Anyway, this will be the final Who we Were article of this off season, I hope you enjoyed the series. One of the biggest reasons why I picked Richard Eckersley as the final player of the series is because it was suggested a few times, and because of how interesting his post-playing career is. He went from a decent player on a crappy team, to opening a no-waste organic supermarket in Totnes.