According to reports, Bobby Smyrniotis has interviewed for the TFC head coach position. As per the Athletic. He is reported to have had an official interview with the Major League Soccer side.
This news comes alongside reporting from Joshua Kloke at the Athletic that Former TFC player and VWFC Coach Carl Robinson has also been interviewed.
The bigger news overshadowing Smyrniotis and Robinson, is that John Herdman has had informal talks with TFC as well.
That’s a lot of big news from where I am sitting. For now, I want to concentrate on the news surrounding Forge FC’s Head Coach.
This is not the first time that Coach Bobby’s name has been mentioned with a head coaching vacancy in MLS. Last year a slot at CF Montreal was believed to be potentially available for him, but it was suggested that not being bilingual was an issue.
That won’t be an issue at TFC, but how likely is it that Bobby heads to Toronto?
Fear of Losing Him or Excitement for the Opportunity
For all CPL fans, this is the business. Enjoy your favourites while you can, as the goal for most players in the league is to shine and move up the ladder. In Hamilton we have said good-bye to a few trying to do just that from Anthony Novak and Kwame Awuah to Daniel Krutzen and even Tristan Borges (Though we snagged him back) and more.
But coaches moving onward and upward is a relatively newer phenomenon. Of course, Pa-Modou Kah left for the MLS as an assistant coach by way of MLSNextPro. Now an assistant at Charlotte FC he seems to have charted a course to higher levels for himself through success at the CPL level. And as mentioned, Bobby has been in this situation before.
Fans of the Forge are currently in a little bit of a confusing time. Of course seeing one of their own get a big time opportunity is a great thing. And it doesn’t hurt that if TFC agree to sign Bobby, then Forge are in line for some significant compensation. After all, Bobby is fresh off signing a new four-year deal with the team.
Of course, the fear seeps in a little when you try to imagine who could step into his shoes. David Edgar is a more than capable coach with international experience and a great perspective as both a player and coach in the CPL. His European resume is quite impressive as well.
Or would Bob Young and company try to make a splashy signing in the wake of losing the most successful coach in league history? Who knows? This is all a bit of the cart before the horse. Nothing is even close to done.
But it might be a fun thought experiment to imagine what Bobby coaching TFC would be like.
Bobby at BMO
Ok, this is all a bit premature. But would Bobby Smyniotis be a good fit at TFC? I think he would.
Bobby is a builder, (insert your own animated mental image). He created one of the most successful academies in Canada alongside his brother with Sigma. They started their private academy after returning from working in Greece , where Bobby was a coach in the respected Olympiacos Academy system. Working with young talent to help them realize his preferred style of football, while getting the best out of his athletes, is what he is all about.
Sigma with Bobby at the helm has churned out some of Canada’s top talent on the pitch. Tajon Buchanan, Cyle Larin, Richie Laryea and even current TFC number two ‘keeper Greg Ranjitsingh. Not to mention the plethora of CPL talent at Forge and across the league.
And for all the talk of how great it would be to get Herdman at TFC to lure some Canadian national first team talent in the lead up to the World Cup, Bobby might fit that bill too. With the number of Canadian youth players he has worked with who are now on the national team, he could be a real coup here for players in contract years before the 2026 World Cup. His network would be a big asset. That’s not to say that Tajon is on his way, but Canadian Talent in contract years playing abroad may see this as an option. And names like Adekugbe (this year), Laryea, Osorio and others have shown that they can hold down MLS slots and still be major parts of our National Team future. Plus names like Sean Young, Woobens Pacius, Dan Nimick or as yet undiscovered players could all be CanMNT quality potentially as depth in four years. Having a CPL/L10 connection at the helm wouldn’t be all bad.
And TFC is definitely in need of a rebuild as they are currently in the midst of their worst season in a long time. How would Bobby help with that? Aside from the player connections I mentioned, he would offer a reset on club culture. It seems to be somewhat of an open secret that TFC has not had its players singing from the same hymn sheet. And that goes back a while. Remember Jozy Altidore training alone? Now the division between the coaching staff under Bob Bradley and at least one of the Italians is another crack. So a voice like Bobby’s could be uniting.
And let’s face it, the brain trust at TFC has never been great at managing the transition of academy stars to the first team. There have been exceptions, of course, but it hasn’t been a successful time recently, as young players were shoe-horned into wrong positions. They sunk more often then swam. But a number of them have found success upon moves to new environments. Think of Lucas McNaughton, Ralph Priso, Jacob Shaffleburg, etc.
Smyrniotis utilized his Sigma charges well with the big club in the CanPL. I think he could overhaul and improve TFC’s Academy system too, over time, and with their additional resources. In total 16 players on the 2019 Champion Forge FC roster had played for Bobby at Sigma. I think if he was able to settle in at TFC, he could bring some of those academy-to-the-first-team fairy tales that fans love. Think Oso and Ashtone Morgan. (Think less Mark Anthony Kaye, poor guy). And that is something TFC fan’s could use right now.
I’d argue he affords the team a little patience from the fans too. Fans, whether they like the signing of not, would see a move for Bobby as a move to slowly build a new culture. And though sports are all about results, having watched two attempts with high profile Americans to try to stamp their own style on the team fail while leaving TFC in tatters, I think they could sell a Canadian success story to buy time.
There are no guarantees in life, and sports is no different. And Bobby could fail to lead TFC to relative success. But having watched him for the last four and a half years, I think he has a really developed sense of of the importance of winning. He will not be heading to TFC just to develop players or change a culture. He lives to win.
He will take the Canadian Championship seriously, because he wants that, and he wants to prove himself in the Concacaf region. He is a good knock-out tournament coach as the CPL playoffs and Concacaf League can attest to. And that bodes well for the MLS playoff format. He helps players achieve the necessary mindset.
He coaches fun teams to watch. They enjoy possession and passing. They create chances. They have a sense of purpose. I think players would enjoy that aspect of his game. And often when players are enjoying themselves, it shows. At this stage, TFC needs a coach that helps players and fans see that the game can be fun again, and that winning matters.
And I know that Forge is struggling this year. But even by their standards, struggling means in shouting distance of a regular season title and in the playoffs. (Plus, could some of these struggles be because of the TFC distraction? More speculation on my part. More likely some excellent quality in the CPL catching up).
Again, all of this is an experiment in speculation. And Toronto fans love a winner and are not noted for their patience. But they also love a good (local) story too. They are romantics at heart, even if they are big city romantics.
Big City Bias
Toronto is the Centre of the Universe, from a Canadian perspective. And as such they demand big stars, big names. Taking someone from a smaller league (which is normally how these things work around the world) and watching him adapt, and then succeed at the next level, is the tried and tested process. Think Ange Postecoglu going from Brisbane Roar/Melbourne Victory to Yokohama F. Marinos to Celtic and now Spurs (debatably a step up). That’s how it works. You prove your mettle in the smaller ponds and rise to the sea, right?
But Toronto is not most cities. And their fan base, at least the those that didn’t grow up in the Dark Times, may not have have the patience of even the desire to watch a rags to riches story. They may want more of the flashy double-deckers and Italian Jobs. And in the end, MLSE has to win over their ticket buying public, not guys me.
I think Bobby Smyniotis would be a capable and competent steward of the franchise.
That being said, personally I am cheering for “Hollywood” Carl Robinson.
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