By RON FANFAIR
Chris Cummins has had success working with young soccer players. It’s interesting to see how he will fare with a roster mixed with youths and veterans in his first head coaching assignment.
The 37-year-old Englishman has been named Toronto FC’s interim coach after the sudden resignation of John Carver last Saturday. He joined the Toronto FC staff in May 2008 from English League Division One side Luton Town where he worked with Carver.
Cummins, who was at the helm last Sunday when the local Major League Soccer (MLS) club held the Columbus Crew to a 1-1 draw to share the lead in the Eastern Conference standings with D.C. United, said he’s excited to be the outfit’s third head coach.
“I am just glad to be given the opportunity,” he said at a press conference at BMO Field. “I think this is a fantastic job and I will be doing it for as long as I am told. It’s interim at the moment, but we will see what happens…The one thing I can guarantee you is that me and my staff and players will work tirelessly every day to bring success to the club. Both the club and the fans deserve it.”
Toronto FC manager and director of soccer, Mo Johnston, said the decision to appoint Cummins as the interim coach for the remainder of the year was made after he met with the coaching staff following Carver’s resignation.
“Chris has actually been coaching the team these last two games,” said Johnston, who coached the club in its first season in 2007. “I think he has done a wonderful job. When you look in the locker room and the respect factor, it was an easy decision. I spoke to both coaches and we came to an agreement that Chris would take over and Nick (Dasovic) would assist him. Technically, they are very good coaches.
“Also, it’s very important that we have some stability. In pre-season, we had an unbelievable time. The coaches gelled together and the team was playing very well. The one thing I would say about John in terms of coaching a team is that he did allow these two young guys to coach and that’s a credit to him.”
Cummins said he does not intend to make significant changes to the system that Carver implemented for the club this year. He, however, promised that Toronto FC, which boosted its line-up this season with the acquisition of Scarborough-born Canadian players, Dwayne DeRosario and Adrian Serioux, will play an attacking brand of soccer.
“We spend many hours looking at the opposition we are playing against and we try to come up with the best game plan we think could get us a positive result,” he said. “I am quite keen on the 4-3-3, but that’s not to say we would not play a 4-4-2. It depends on the personnel we have in games and who we are playing against.”
Cummins began his professional coaching career 13 years ago with English club Watford where he was hired by former England manager, Graham Taylor.
The new Toronto FC interim coach attributed much of his success and his emergence as an MLS head coach to Taylor and Carver.
“Graham was the guy who gave me a start and I was very impressed by how he managed players and people and also by his demeanor and how he handled himself,” Cummins said. “I picked up a lot of things from him and I pick up the phone now and speak to him.
“I met John two years ago when he went to Luton and I picked up so many things from him. He’s very well respected in the U.K.”
Cummins served for a decade as Watford’s assistant academy manager and director of youth and is credited with nurturing several young players, including England winger, Ashley Young, who he identified as a 10-year-old schoolboy and brought to the club.
He was fired in January 2007 two weeks before Watford sold Young to Aston Villa for an estimated fee of £9.65 million. The parting was acrimonious because Cummins had a clause in his contract that stated that he was entitled to 2.5 per cent of any transfer fee over £500,000 for any player he discovered who was sold by the club.
The dispute was resolved last December with Cummins receiving a six-figure settlement.
The 40-year-old Dasovic, who served as the national men’s Olympic team head coach last year, has been elevated from second to first assistant coach with Toronto FC.