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Reds to name interim head coach
April 29, 2009, 8:19 AM
Filed under: Chris Cummins, Coaching, Nick Dasovic, Toronto FC

There isn’t a great deal of suspense surrounding the search for Toronto FC’s interim head coach. Either Chris Cummins or Nick Dasovic will be named the club’s interim coach on Wednesday, and whichever of the two Reds assistant coaches is tapped for the top job, the decision will be popular with the players.

“They’re both great guys,” said midfielder Carl Robinson. “They get on well with the boys … and they’re great coaches as well. They’re both very technical, very tactical, so we’re going to be in good hands.”

TFC manager and director of soccer Mo Johnston announced on Sunday that the team would be looking only at Cummins and Dasovic for the head coaching job that was vacated by John Carver last Friday. With the season just seven games old and Carver’s resignation coming as something of a surprise, hiring one of the assistants would help the club retain some continuity.

“If a new manager comes in, he starts studying the players, getting to know them and we’re starting from scratch,” said team captain Jim Brennan. “Here, we have good momentum at the moment and whoever comes in, we’ll just continue that.

“They’re both great guys and great coaches and they have a great deal of respect from all the players. Whomever gets it, they already have the dressing room.”

Cummins ran the sidelines on Wednesday during TFC’s 1-0 win against Chivas USA while Carver directed things from a stadium box, and Cummins was also the coach of record for the Reds’ 1-0 win over Kansas City on Sunday. He said that both he, Dasovic and the whole team are focused only on this Saturday’s match against Columbus rather than the coaching situation.

“It was a tough week last week with everything that went on,” Cummins said. “I’ve just come in to do my job. I love my job just as Das does. … We’ve just trained with the lads and nobody’s talking about it, to be honest with you. We’re just coming in and getting on with our jobs. We’ll wait and see what happens tomorrow.”

It would be the first time as the head coach of a professional club for either Cummins or Dasovic, as both men have built their reputations as quality developers of young talent in several different leagues around the world.

Cummins, 37, began his pro coaching career in his early 20s and got his first professional coaching job with his hometown Watford Football Club in 1996, hired by Watford legend and former England head coach Graham Taylor. He served as the team’s youth development director and assistant academy manager of both the under-16 and youth teams before being named Watford’s director of youth and the youth and reserve team coach.

He moved on to take the same role with Luton Town, where he first worked with Carver. When Carver took over the TFC job 15 months ago, he brought Cummins into the fold as Toronto’s assistant coach upon the conclusion of Luton’s season in May 2008.

Cummins said that he has learned lessons from all of the coaches he has worked with, but also noted that part of the reason he was interested in coaching in the first place was as a reaction to what he felt was poor instruction in his semi-pro playing days.

“I was quite opinionated, and I used to get frustrated, to be honest with you, with some coaches that I didn’t think knew the game,” Cummins said. “So I got into the coaching side and I was fortunate to get the opportunity when I was very young. People talk about me being a young coach, but I’ve been in the professional game now for 16 years.”

Perhaps the best-known of Cummins’ charges is current Aston Villa winger Ashley Young. Cummins has known Young since he was a 10-year-old entering the Watford Academy for the first time, and oversaw Young’s development into a star for Watford, Villa and now the English national team.

Cummins deflected praise for helping Young and the other notable players that he had taught on the way, instead saying the credit belonged to the players themselves.

“I’ve had an influence in some of their careers but it comes down to their natural talent, their ability and their desire to want to do well. I can’t take all the credit for that,” Cummins said.

For Dasovic, Toronto FC is the latest stop in a footballing journey that has taken him all over Canada and Europe. The Vancouver native’s 16-year professional playing career took him to Croatia, Sweden, France and Sweden, as well as stints with the North York Rockets of the old Canadian Soccer League and the USL’s Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps.

“I’ve had the opportunity to live in Sweden, France, Scotland and you learn different styles of football, different ways of life and cultures,” Dasovic said. “It helps to make you a more complete person in every aspect, not just in coaching.”

Dasovic’s playing and coaching careers overlapped, as he served as an assistant coach while still playing for the Whitecaps from 2002 to 2005. Upon retirement, he became Vancouver’s reserve team coach in 2006 as well as an assistant coach in the national program, first with Canada’s under-20 team and then with the national team, a position he still holds to this day. The international duty was a natural step for a man who was a fixture in Canada’s midfield and back line; Dasovic’s 63 caps are the sixth-most of any player in Canada’s history.

While Dasovic, 40, enjoys his role with Canada, he has relished the chance to work for Toronto FC. He joined the club last May as the head of the TFC Academy, and this season was promoted to working with the first team.

“I prefer to be in club football, only because with the Canadian national program, you didn’t really coach,” Dasovic said. “You had three months off then you’d go away on a trip for 10 days and there wasn’t a lot of coaching you could do. It was more monitoring the players’ fitness levels, etc. and then you’d have another three-month break. This is the element of coaching is where you want to be right now because you’re in there every single day in an environment when there’s a lot of pressure on everybody. It’s good to be part of pressure because it keeps you striving to be better.”

Dasovic said the coaching staff and players have already adjusted to moving on without Carver since each coach was already given a lot of responsibility.

“The good part about being with the club is that JC gave us roles and let us do our own thing. He wasn’t there looking over our backs the whole time,” Dasovic said. “Coming into this role it’s comfortable. Me and Chris have been working together for over a year now and we get on well. Everything’s been great.

“There is no transition, as far as I’m concerned. It’s status quo. Obviously JC’s not there, but in terms of Chris, myself, [strength and conditioning coach] Paul [Winsper], [goalkeeper coach Mike] Toshack and the rest of the staff, we carried on and I think that’s what’s been good about it.”

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