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Former TFC Manager becomes Plymouth Assistant
December 15, 2009, 1:25 PM
Filed under: Former TFC Staff, John Carver

Plymouth Argyle manager Paul Sturrock has been relieved of his duties.

The under-pressure boss was summoned to a board meeting on Wednesday and told of his fate with the offer of another role within the club, it is expected that Head Coach Paul Mariner will now have full control of first-team affairs. The club will release a statement later today.

The decision to replace Sturrock will bring a huge sigh of relief to the Green Army following a disastrous season so far. The Pilgrims have lost 12 of their 19 games in the Championship and have been entrenched in the bottom three for most of this season.

Fans have been calling for Sturrock’s head for sometime and the board of directors have finally listened and ended his two-year reign – his second spell at the club. There were also concerns regarding Sturrock’s health and the enormous pressure he has been suffering, so it’s best for all concerned that a fresh start has been granted.

Paul Mariner comes across the Atlantic from MLS side New England Revolution where he was assistant coach. Former Newcastle United caretaker manager and Toronto FC manager John Carver will assist Mariner.

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Meddling by MLS `last straw’ for Carver
April 28, 2009, 8:18 AM
Filed under: John Carver, MLS, Toronto FC

For John Carver, the last straw was not a fine from Major League Soccer for publicly criticizing officials.

It came when he was told, after coaching Toronto FC to its biggest win of the young season from high atop the pitch at BMO Field, the league was ordering him back to the sidelines for the next game.

“You can only put up with so much,” Carver told the Toronto Star in an interview yesterday, two days after news broke of his resignation as head coach six games into his second season.

In a lengthy telephone conversation, Carver, 44, detailed a litany of what he deemed bad officiating and MLS mistreatment directed at him during his tenure in Toronto, which began Feb. 1, 2008.

“I’ve had restraints on me ever since I got here,” the native of Newcastle, England, said of the league and its officials. “If ever you do anything or say anything out of order, they’re straight on the phone complaining to the owners and that’s how they work because, in my opinion, it’s all about image.

“Obviously I wasn’t the right image for the league.”

In New York, MLS officials refused to get into a tit-for-tat.

“The league prefers not to respond to Carver’s criticism,” said MLS spokesman Will Kuhns.

Neither TFC general manager Mo Johnston nor officials with club owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment were available for comment yesterday.

On Sunday, following Toronto’s 1-0 win over Kansas City that put FC into first place in the Eastern Conference, Johnston said Carver had been “disillusioned” by what had been “going on” with MLS.

The beginning of the end for Carver, a calls-’em-as-he-sees-’em kind of guy, came on April 19, when Toronto lost 3-2 at FC Dallas. Angered by the officiating throughout, but particularly a handball call in the penalty area that resulted in the winning goal in the 84th minute, he lashed out after the game. He called the referee’s performance “a disgrace” and was fined $750 (U.S.) by MLS.

Carver said after that run-in and at least two others in his first season in Toronto, he was feeling “paranoid” that his personality – not the team’s play – was causing TFC to get harsher treatment from refs.

So, he said he decided the next night to “take myself out of the firing line” by going into a private box at BMO Field for the game against Chivas USA. He said it also gave him a better view as TFC employed three strikers for the first time this season and dominated the game, beating the previously undefeated California side 1-0.

“I sat upstairs for a tactical reason,” Carver said, “so I could see the game from a different angle.”

Carver said in addition to drawing up the lineup, he made “40 or 50 phone calls” down to assistant Chris Cummins on the bench during the match. He said he gave his usual pre-game, halftime and post-game talks in the locker room and had decided beforehand to have Cummins handle the media conference if the team won but do it himself in the event of a tie or TFC loss.

“I actually gave more to that game contribution-wise,” he said. “I had more conversations with the coaching staff than I usually do when I sit on the bench with them.”

He planned a repeat Sunday, but after an off-day Thursday Carver said he got to the stadium Friday and was told by Johnston the MLS wanted him back on the sideline for Sunday’s game.

“That was my last straw,” he said. “I wanted to run the club the way I wanted to run it and I had Mo’s backing. But, it’s like everything else, the league runs the show and I wasn’t prepared to do it the way they wanted to do it. If it’s not right for the club, to get the right results, then I’m not going to do something detrimental.”

Carver tendered his resignation Friday and said he told the players the next morning.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Carver, who was 11-15-10 as coach.

Johnston said Sunday that he spoke to Carver at length and asked him to maybe take a day or two off instead of quitting, but he declined.

Carver insisted yesterday that the decision was not related to any battle with Johnston – “we’re best mates” – or a slight by the club’s owners – “they’re fantastic.” He also said, “hand on my heart,” there’s no job awaiting him in England. He also said his health is not an issue.

Carver said he and his wife will soon head to England but promised to be back in Toronto with friends later in the season to sit in the stands and watch a game.

“Hopefully they’ll still be top of the league,” Carver said. “And, I’ll have my hat and scarf on, don’t worry about that.”

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Health at crux of Carver’s exit
April 27, 2009, 8:18 AM
Filed under: John Carver, Toronto FC

Having their head coach quit barely a month into the regular season caused great unrest in the Toronto FC office and dressing room this week, but no one wanted John Carver’s health to suffer.

And there seemed to be a valid concern in that area that led in part to his resignation this week, with the official cause linked to his ongoing battles with Major League Soccer’s philosophy and officiating.

“He had certain things, and I don’t want to go into that because that’s John’s private life,” manager Mo Johnston said last night, his first comments since the 44-year-old Carver’s departure became official on Saturday.

“I think you guys have seen all the certain tendencies, in terms of (him) being maybe a little bit brooding, maybe a little bit not his usual self, not his bubbly character. I felt it was getting to him.”

Johnston also said he thought the refs calls against TFC eventually would have evened out, but that you can either fight through such setbacks or deal with the pressure as you see fit.

Carver, who remains at his Oakville home for the present, told his home country’s Sunday Sun newspaper that his almost constant head-butting with MLS officials prompted his decision.

“It is the MLS with whom I have issues,” he said. “There is nothing else in the pipeline (regarding a possible job with old friend Alan Shearer at Newcastle in England) and the people at Toronto have been fantastic to me.”

Johnston waded in yesterday, trying to quash several other rumours that weren’t behind the decision, including the notion the club wouldn’t pay his $750 league fine for arguing with officials last week and that he and the coach were feuding over team personnel and style.

“There had been a lot of rumours of late about bust-ups, absolutely not true,” Johnston said. “He just sent me a text wishing the boys all the best, great win (yesterday’s 1-0 decision over Kansas City), fantastic, give the coaches a hug.

“Obviously, he felt a little bit disillusioned. He expressed his feelings and decided that he wanted to hand in his resignation. I spoke with him at length, to our coaches, to our players. I thought maybe taking one or two days off from that and coming back refreshed (would help). He didn’t feel it was the right thing to do.”

Carver told Johnston of his decision Thursday night and had a farewell drink with the manager and coaches. The players were informed at BMO Field on Saturday morning.

“A bolt out of the blue,” midfielder Carl Robinson said of the news. “It was tough because I’m very close to him as a few of the other lads are.

“It wasn’t nice, because he’s like one of the boys. He’s a players manager. He’s built this (team). We said we have got to win the game for him. And we’ve got to go and get the end product, which is get in the playoffs and win the championship for him.”

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Short shelf life for Toronto’s pro coaches
April 26, 2009, 1:38 PM
Filed under: John Carver, Toronto FC

What is it with Toronto and head coaches?

This town is awfully hard on them, for some reason or another. (Oh, yeah, it might have something to do with being – there’s no polite way of saying this – losers.)

Until he announced he had resigned yesterday, John Carver of Toronto FC was the senior man among our major pro teams – at fewer than 15 months on the job.

Fare thee well, coach. Not that the Carver Era, which began with his hiring on Feb.1, 2008, will be remembered as anything at all special in terms of soccer style, substance or results. He threw a pretty good tantrum, though.

Hired to be fired, eh? Unless you quit first.

Longest coach standing is now none other than Ron Wilson of the Maple Leafs, who was hired as Paul Maurice’s successor back on June 10. Meaning, he’s senior man with a little more than 10 months of continuous service. Baby steps, right?

Wilson will celebrate his first year on the job six days before Cito Gaston does his, having taken over the Jays from fired John Gibbons on June 16.

Jay Triano stepped into Sam Mitchell’s shoes with the Raptors on Dec.3, while Bart Andrus was named as Don Matthews’ replacement with the Argonauts on Jan.16 and Jamie Batley took over the Rock from fired Glenn Clark four days later.

The one constant in the coaching profession is change. Gone are the days – at least in the pros – when a guy could have a job for life. Cornelius McGillicutty (better known as Connie Mack) managed the Philadelphia Phillies for 50 years, but it helped that he was at least a part-owner throughout that time.

Who will last the longest among the current crop of Toronto tomatoes?

It would appear that Wilson, with GM Brian Burke’s blessing, is in for the long haul.

In his second go-around, Gaston’s results have been nothing short of excellent and, at 65, he could be the one to decide when his time is up, rather than management.

Andrus, being new to the CFL and Toronto, gets at least a full season even if it is horrible.

Triano deserves a chance to start a new NBA season in charge, but GM Bryan Colangelo will have him on a short leash.

After the Rock’s dismal season, Batley can hardly feel secure.

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Head Coach John Carver resigns
April 25, 2009, 1:45 PM
Filed under: Announcement, John Carver, Toronto FC

Toronto FC announced Saturday that head coach John Carver has tendered his resignation with the club for personal reasons. His resignation will take effect immediately. Carver was hired as head coach on February 1, 2008.

“We would sincerely like to thank John for his work with Toronto FC during his time here. We appreciate all his hard work in helping this team become more competitive, and we wish him all the best.”

The rest of the technical staff will remain in tact with assistant coaches Chris Cummins and Nick Dasovic overseeing the game Sunday against the Kansas City Wizards. A decision on the vacant head coaching position will be made early next week.

Manager and Director of Soccer Mo Johnston will be available to media in the post game press conference after the Wizards game on Sunday.

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TFC benefits from Carver’s eye in the sky
April 25, 2009, 10:02 AM
Filed under: John Carver, Toronto FC

Toronto FC made a host of changes – on the field and the sideline –before playing the best game of their young season on Wednesday.

So, conventional wisdom suggests that with the Kansas City Wizards coming to town tomorrow it’ll be more of the same – an attack-focused lineup and head coach John Carver watching from an upstairs box rather than the sideline.

“It seemed to work very well this week so it might be something we’re looking at this weekend as well,” assistant coach Chris Cummins said of taking Carver’s seat on the bench in the 1-0 win over previously-undefeated Chivas USA.

While Cummins said the coaching switch offered Carver “a great view upstairs” of TFC’s new three-striker formation, it also afforded the head coach a change of scenery.

Carver was fined $750 (U.S.) for publicly criticizing the officiating after a 3-2 loss at FC Dallas and hinted before Wednesday’s game that it might be wise to take himself off the sideline for a bit.

Whether or not Carver returns to his usual post tomorrow, he must have liked what he saw from a lineup that had Danny Dichio and Pablo Vitti join Chad Barrett up front.

They were a threat all night, creating several good scoring chances. Dichio set-up midfielder Amado Guevara for the game’s lone goal.

“We worked pretty well and we kind of shared the load between the three of us,” said Dichio, who made his first start of the season as TFC looked for more offence in the absence of Dwayne De Rosario, who has a hamstring injury.

“I also think it creates a lot of space for them as well.”

De Rosario said yesterday he pulled his hamstring and expects to miss another week, which means he’s unlikely to play next Saturday’s home game against Columbus.

The veteran Dichio, 34, whose previous playing time this season was as a second-half substitute, admitted he was in “a lot of pain” after the full 90 minutes.

But after several ice baths Thursday and Friday said “I’m feeling refreshed.”

Cummins said Dichio looked “fresher than we probably thought” he would and after another light workout today he should be able to start again tomorrow for TFC (2-2-2) if that’s the coaching decision.

“Whether we’re actually going to play that formation again with the same personnel we don’t know yet,” Cummins said of the TFC attack.

“We’re looking into a lot of different things.”

At the back, Marco Velez made his first start of the season in place of Kevin Harmse. He played well as a central defender, anchoring a unit that limited Chivas to one shot on goal and made Stefan Frei’s first career shutout a relatively easy one.

“Like every other player I want to be in the starting lineup but it’s up to Carver,” Velez said of the chance to make back-to-back starts.

One of the keys to limiting chances by Kansas City (3-2-1), Velez said, is ball movement, something TFC did very well against Chivas.

“It made it harder for them to pressure us when we just played one and two touches and moved the ball quick,” he said

“We went out with three strikers and tried to get a win because we needed it a lot.”

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Carver rips into referee after TFC done in by handball call
April 20, 2009, 8:20 AM
Filed under: John Carver, Toronto FC

To say that John Carver was disappointed with referee Tim Weyland’s performance in Toronto FC’s 3-2 loss to FC Dallas here last night would be an understatement, to say the least.

After digging themselves out of a 2-0, first-half hole on goals by defender Adrian Serioux and forward Chad Barrett, TFC looked like they’d salvaged another hard-earned road point. But a late handball call on defender Marvell Wynne changed all that, and Kenny Cooper’s clinical penalty kick with seven minutes to go sent the visitors to their first loss away from BMO Field this season.

Afterward, Carver ripped into Weyland in his post-game press conference.

“I’m having a go at the referee today because his performance was a disgrace,” Carver said.

On the decisive play, Dallas forward David Ferreira ran onto a clever pass from winger Dave van den Berg just inside the area. As Ferreira made a quick cut inside Wynne, the ball popped up and struck Wynne’s outstretched arm and Weyland didn’t hesitate in pointing to the spot.

“Now, you tell me how a guy who’s running flat out can change direction having to have his arms down by his side. It’s impossible,” said Carver.

“I’m sure the referee couldn’t change direction with his hands in his pockets.”

Carver also disagreed with Weyland’s decision to award a free kick in a dangerous position on the lead-up to Dallas’ opener. Carver insisted Serioux, the Scarborough native that TFC acquired in a trade with Dallas on Feb. 24, won the ball cleanly. Off the ensuing set piece, Dallas midfielder Dax McCarty found Drew Moor’s head in the box to put the hosts ahead in the 25th minute.

“I think sometimes maybe they forget it’s a man’s game, there is contact, you’re allowed to tackle,” said Toronto captain Jim Brennan. “Some of the calls, I don’t know. It seems like every time you go to tackle you get called. So if there is a certain way you’re supposed to tackle and play aggressive in this league, I’d love to know.”

Carver had some issues with MLS officiating in his first season with TFC last year, getting into a yelling match with a fourth official during one contest.

The loss spoiled a spirited comeback from the visitors, who dominated the second half after playing on their heels most of the first.

Barrett’s goal was his first of the season. The pressure had been mounting on the striker after he’d squandered numerous scoring opportunities this campaign, particularly in a recent two-game homestand during which TFC went winless.

Adding insult to injury, or perhaps the other way around, star forward Dwayne De Rosario left the match with a hamstring injury and is not expected to play when MLS-leading Chivas USA visits TFC on Wednesday night. Carver said De Rosario is also doubtful for Toronto’s tilt against Kansas City at BMO on Sunday.

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Carver urges players to kick it like `blue-collar’ Fulham over next week
April 18, 2009, 2:35 PM
Filed under: John Carver, Toronto FC

Facing their busiest week of the season, Toronto FC coach John Carver is challenging his side to play a more “blue-collar” style.

While confident in the depth of talent, Carver said he has stressed to his players that that’s not enough. They also need to make sure they out-work their opponents.

To illustrate his point, yesterday he showed them a video of last Sunday’s English Premier League game in which Fulham with its “blue-collar players who work hard” went on the road and defeated Manchester City, “who have all the flair and all the big-priced players,” 3-1.

“It shows you can get results by working hard and working for each other and working for a team,” Carver said at BMO Field before TFC (1-1-2) left for a road game tomorrow against FC Dallas (0-3-1).

“That’s what I’ve stressed to our guys,” he said. “We’ve got to get out there Sunday night and work for the team and then let the natural ability that some of our flair players have take its course.”

Dwayne De Rosario, regarded as the best of those flair players, yesterday practised for the first time this week after straining a hamstring in last Saturday’s 1-1 tie with Dallas at BMO Field.

“It feels pretty good right now, so I’m anticipating playing (tomorrow),” De Rosario said after a practice, that, among other things, saw players working on finishing scoring chances in close, a major weakness in last week’s game.

But with it still unclear how De Rosario’s leg will react and starting a stretch of three games in eight nights, Carver said he will take an extra player on the trip to Texas. He said he’ll also be ready to bring others into the lineup if fatigue becomes a factor over the week.

After tomorrow, TFC plays host to Chivas USA next Wednesday and Kansas City on Sunday, April 26.

“It’s three games in a short period of time, but we have to get on with it,” he said. “This is when you have to look at your squad and if I need to rotate it then I’ll do that.”

The key element of that hard work, Carver said, is constantly putting pressure on the ball, especially in the offensive half, because it creates scoring chances. TFC did that particularly well in the opening 30 minutes last Saturday and in their season opener when they went into Kansas City and came away with a 3-2 victory.

“I’ve got faith in my forwards,” Carver said in response to criticism that they have not done a good job of converting scoring chances. “They just need a little stroke of luck in front of goal.”

De Rosario, who scored his first goal in a TFC jersey last week, said the players know their best chances this season have come when they put pressure on the other team “and put them back on their heels.”

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Different look for TFC
April 10, 2009, 9:12 AM
Filed under: FC Dallas, John Carver, Toronto FC

From a win to a draw to being blanked in its home opener, Toronto FC’s much-hyped character is about to get its first test.

Toronto moved from an intense post-mortem of its 2-0 loss to Seattle early this week to full-bore preparation for FC Dallas tomorrow afternoon. That will include a different lineup or at least a re-arranged defence.

“I won’t give it away, but there will be changes in personnel,” coach John Carver said yesterday at BMO Field. “We’ve chopped and changed a few things.”

Carver’s assistants, led by Chris Cummins and Nick Dasovic, ran drills early in the week while Carver scouted the TFC Academy team in Dallas. It’s not so much the five goals the team has allowed in three games that concerns the staff as the ease in which Seattle picked up two in the first half.

“While I was away, the guys worked on the back four, worked on rotating some of the defenders, on being more solid defensively,” Carver said.

“If you look at the two goals we conceded, they were both give-and-gos, with people standing around.

“I was asked if I was concerned that we have conceded five (against Kansas City, Columbus and Seattle), but one was a penalty, two were world-class strikes. Unfortunately the two others came in the same game. But the guys have worked on it and hopefully, they’ll be better.”

All were in agreement that the entire 11 have to be sharper on the ball when Dallas has possession. The visitors have yet to win a game, but no one is counting them out.

“I’m one of those who believes you defend from the front and attack from the back,” midfielder Carl Robinson said. “When we concede goals, it’s not just the defence’s fault, because it’s the midfielders and defenders’ job to defend as well and vice-versa. It’s not just about the strikers scoring goals because you have off days and sometimes have to rely on midfielders and defenders, too.

“What helps is having a settled team, a settled back four and a settled midfield. You get used to playing together. We’ve played three games and chopped and changed for one reason or another. As soon as we get into a lot more games and a settled team, we’ll be fine.”

Carver consulted senior players such as Robinson and Dwayne De Rosario about team morale in the wake of the home-field flop and is convinced the changes made in the off-season will stand the test.

“We have a lot of character in that dressing room with the additions of Dwayne and Adrian (Serioux),” Robinson said. “I’ve been here since Day 1 and it has been building. We know we didn’t play well, all we have to do is bounce back. Good teams do that quickly.”

One would figure midfielder De Rosario would have been the most upset by Saturday’s developments, which he had looked forward to for months since re-signing in his home town.

“It was a great homecoming for me,” De Rosario said “There’s still a little bit of jelling and understanding each other on the field to (master), in terms of knowing where each other goes and how each other plays in certain situations.

“That only comes with games. We went down a goal (to Seattle) and we’d never been down a goal yet at home. We got a little scattered and lost our position a bit. We have to get that game out of the way and turn negatives into positives.”

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Tough home opener awaits TFC
April 3, 2009, 7:28 AM
Filed under: John Carver, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC

Toronto FC coach John Carver played killjoy at training on Thursday by refusing to look past the expansion — and undefeated — Seattle Sounders FC as an automatic three points for his club in its home opener on Saturday.

“We won’t get carried away,” Carver said of what is a highly-anticipated home opener. “What I will say to the fans is, ‘Please be patient,’ it’s not a slam dunk three points on Saturday. There is a good side coming in here and we have to prepare as if we are playing against one of the best sides in MLS, which they are, and have no complacency.”

Seattle (2-0-0) arrives at BMO Field with two wins in its first two games, well ahead of the pre-season expectations placed on the expansion club. The Sounders defeated MLS Cup runner-up New York in the MLS curtain-raiser before blanking Carolina Challenge Cup winner Real Salt Lake to remain on top of both the Western and overall standings.

The Sounders owe the early season success to the play of American goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who was named MLS Player of the Week after posting consecutive shutouts. The last goalkeeper to win a MLS Player of the Week award was current San Jose Earthquakes ‘keeper Joe Cannon in the 2006 season.

“He is an experienced goalkeeper,” Chad Barrett said of fellow American Keller. “But keep in mind they played two home games. To have their first away game here in Toronto, he is going to get tested; and he knows that. Player of the week doesn’t mean anything now.”

Barrett’s focus, however, will be on his own form. Scoring nine goals after a mid-season trade to Toronto last summer, Barrett was a second-half substitute in the 1-1 draw with Columbus and has yet to find the score sheet in the new season.

“I just had a bad game (in Columbus), I’ll be honest,” Barrett explained. “My touch wasn’t there which affects my work ethic. But I got my mind on straight again. If I get the start this week I am going to come in and work my tail off.”

Toronto FC (1-1-0) is also ahead of pre-season projections by taking four of a possible six points from two road games to begin the season. In 2008 the club was dismal away from BMO Field, earning just 10 points in 15 road games. But when playing in front of the raucous home fans, Carver’s club is a different animal. Toronto registered 25 points at home in 2008, buoyed by a franchise best six-game undefeated streak in April and May.

Like Seattle, the strong play of Toronto’s goalkeepers is partially responsible for the impressive start to the season. Rookie Stefan Frei earned his first MLS victory in Kansas City before a first-half injury led to his substitution in the second game at Columbus. Canadian international Greg Sutton came on to keep Toronto in the game long enough to score the equalizer and stretch the undefeated start to the year.

Carver was not ready to name a starter for Saturday, but is pleased with the progress made by the injured Frei during the week.

“He has made progress this week, I am going to leave the decision until (Friday),” Carver said of the injured Frei. “He came in Wednesday when we were all off and I was happy with what he did, he has had another session today and he will have one tomorrow. Then I will make my mind up.”

Toronto FC may also be without two of its key players in the midfield as both Carl Robinson and Amado Guevara played in World Cup qualifiers mid-week. Robinson, who retired from international play with Wales after a loss to Germany on Wednesday, has yet to arrive back in town.

“When (Robinson) comes in (on Friday) I will see how he feels. But I have a contingency in place if he is not available or if Amado (Guevara) is not available.”

Kick-off Saturday is set for 4 p.m. ET at BMO Field in Toronto.

NOTES: Toronto FC trained at the Oakville Soccer Club on Thursday, in front of a huge gathering of young fans and players … John Carver, who was briefly linked to a move back to Newcastle United, commented on the recent hiring of legend Alan Shearer to run the club: “I am surprised it didn’t happen a little bit earlier. There are eight games to go, he has brought in Iain Dowie — who is a good friend of mine — and for the sake of the football club I hope they can do a job and keep them in the Premiership.”

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