Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye

Friends, Romans and Canadians, I come to bury Carver, not to praise him.

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

As everyone knows by now, the John Carver era in Toronto officially ended on Saturday. CHRONICLE LIVE IN THE UK says "fans at the BMO Field club (are) gutted" over his departure.

I suppose that's possible, but if so they're doing a terrific job masking their disappointment. Mostly, they seem to be positively giddy after two wins in five days has them atop the MLS East for the first time ever.

It always seemed to me that Carver was a terrific example of British disdain for MLS. Here was a guy who had never really been a head coach before, two brief "caretaker/interim" stints notwithstanding.

But that wasn't supposed to matter; he had worked under Bobby Robson, he had worked under Ruud Gullit, he was pals with Alan Shearer and Kevin Keegan and could rattle off a dozen big time players he had worked with.

And surely, having all that experience as an assistant meant that you were qualified - even over qualified - to coach in humble, pathetic, Little-Engine-That-Could MLS.

Therein, I think, laid the heart of the problem. He always acted like he thought MLS was just a little bit beneath him, that he was doing us a favor being here, that we should all be grateful that someone of his caliber had agreed to come over and participate in our quaint little colonial league.

On more than one occasion, when he felt he needed to make a serious point he'd accompany it with a threat that he'd "go back to England", as if the prospect of his absence was supposed to throw the entire league into a panic.

He was reportedly greatly miffed about the $750 fine he received for criticizing Tim "White Cane" Weyland a couple weeks back, but it's hard to understand why. Leagues all over the world have penalties for griping about the officials. It's bad for business. He knows that as well as anyone.

And it's not like MLS demanded the keys to his car or something. From a distance at least it seemed like his biggest problem with it was that the fine came from dowdy, unglamorous MLS, who had some nerve questioning someone of his caliber. Why, they ought to be grateful for his wisdom and counsel.

It's also said that he felt that the club didn't "back him up" when MLS reprimanded him, but again it's hard to see what they were supposed to do differently. I guess Mo Johnston could have called reporters into his office and ranted awhile about how Carver was right, Weyland is an imbecile and the league is full of crap, but all that would have done was gotten Mo fined too.

Carver was also furious when the league used a clip of him haranguing the fourth official during a game as an example of unacceptable behavior. He met with reporters and delivered a long silly diatribe about how the league wanted him to "sit still and not move his hands" and that he wasn't built that way and if they didn't like it he'd - well, go back to England.

Carver is now saying that he did indeed leave because of "issues" he has with MLS, but a closer examination of those "issues" only serves to make the man look petty and small. More to the point, he seems to feel that his "passion" is something MLS doesn't approve of, which is simply nonsense, as if guys like Jason kreis aren't every bit as obsessed as he is.

It's nothing but simple arrogance, another case of "I'm from England and we take the game more seriously than you do and if you rubes over here would wake the hell up you'd see that I'm right and you're wrong".

I saw an example of this "passion" earlier this season when TFC scored a late goal and earned a point in Columbus. After the whistle, Carver danced and pranced and waved his finger at the crowd and taunted the fans nearest him (there's a youtube clip someplace) and generally acted like a jerk.

As a Crew fan I of course found it obnoxious, but more importantly as an MLS fan I found it pretty cheap and cheezy. I sat there running through all the MLS coaches in my head and I couldn't conceive of anyone else who would have acted that way in the same circumstances.

And it's not because Sigi, or Preki of Bruce or Dennis or Curt or Stevie or JPO or anyone else don't share his "passion". They certainly do, in spades. Rather, it's because they're not clowns.

Perhaps the most telling comments have come from Toronto Director of Soccer Mo Johnston, who commented that "the pressure" was getting to John and suggested that it was to the point where it was affecting his health and so it was perhaps best that he step down.

This I find the most puzzling part of all. Here's a guy who wants us all to know about his massive experiences with massive clubs in massive European leagues and massive European competitions and yet the "pressure" of managing a team in MLS, a league which 4/5ths of the continent has barely even heard of, is too much for him?

Fending off the occasional petty fine for shooting his mouth off is sending him to the doctor? Performing in front of 6,000 people on a Saturday afternoon in Dallas is a pressure cooker that he can't handle?


In the end, I think it's the pressure he put on himself that got to him.

I don't mean the pressure to win. I mean the "I'm better than all of you third rate clods in this penny ante league of yours" pressure. I think he thought that we should all accept his superiority on the face of it instead of asking him to actually prove it, and in the end it became so frustrating that he essentially imploded.

The bottom line is that he never really wanted to learn what MLS was about, the unique challenges it presents to a coach and figure out what it took to win here. He was sure he already knew how to win soccer games and there was nothing much else he needed to learn.

Because for better or worse, MLS is a different breed of cat, and it's not going to change to suit you just because you used to sit next to Sir Bobby or pick up cones for Alan Shearer. Some guys, like Nicol and Schmid for example, figure it out. Some guys never do.

Over the next few months I think it's safe to assume that we'll see some interviews and comments from Carver about all the things that are wrong with MLS and what a lousy, third rate league it is and how we don't really "get it" over here.

But the reality is that John Carver is the one who didn't get it, and probably never will.