There shouldn’t be any sugar coating to it for Toronto FC; it would take a whole lot of courage in the world of football to walk in the shoes of Mo Johnston.
Mo Johnston took on the challenges of bringing football back on an array of different levels head-on during the course of his playing career and as a manager for Toronto FC.
As many know, the game is more than just a “sport”. The world’s most popular game dives deep into a world of personal differences, emotions and cultural backgrounds. Football tries to bring together so much of what has been keeping the world apart.
Of course, it doesn’t always work out like that. Rivalries are just meant to be in football simply because there’s so much more behind it than those of a sport within North America for example.
Johnston, however, didn’t seem to care about what was dragging football into the abyss. The Scot was very well aware of what happens, but playing the beautiful game was just much more important to him than the equations that didn’t add up.
To make a long story short, the hatred between Celtic and Rangers over in the Scottish Premiership is a derby that cannot be matched by any club or sport. The traditional reasoning between Roman Catholics and Protestants has been taken it to a different course of just a sports rivalry, with violence becoming a regular occurrence.
Those who have witnessed a classic Old Firm fixture knows that a player transferring from Celtic to Rangers or vice versa is simply unheard of, but Johnston did exactly that. The video below explains the scenario in more detail.
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It was a huge surprise not only in Scotland but in the world of football. One player and one signing is all it took for supporters around the world to simply wonder. The complete undertake of Glasgow in a time when the division was prime was absolutely significant to the meaning of the game.
Johnston narrated the story in his playing career of doing just that; playing football. Nothing else contributed to what he not only thought was best for him but best for the whole sport, too.
This whole background of Johnston in his playing days goes really far from telling the story of what the Glasgow native did for the Reds. It takes that amount of bravery to come to a different country with different styles and tactics of the game while managing an expansion franchise through its first seasons.
Johnston was given a tough hand simply because expansion squads at the time were given little to nothing to start off. The now 55-year-old seemed to deal with it decently when trading nine players to earn himself the nickname “Trader Mo”.
His off-the-pitch performances led him to a mainstay of three good years with Toronto, but it’s also what he installed on the pitch that gave TFC a meaning and a background even to this day.
A simple 4-3-3 formation was all that was needed for Johnston to let his players utilize the pitch in free motions, with high-pressure and aggressiveness to the maximum. The Reds were relentless against opposition on the ball, while never being afraid to put a shot on net from virtually anywhere.
Johnston kept a perfect, yet quiet balance within his managerial career with the Reds to start off. The Scot instituted meaning into the TFC badge, which then propelled Johnston to the Director of Football at the club.
Johnston executed a great operation in all areas including the draft, which saw him select the likes of Mike Grella and Stefan Frei – both of whom have an egregious impact on the MLS today.
Yet, after three years with Johnston at the club, Toronto looked as if they were ready to move on in order to progress further down the line. Despite Johnston’s creation of a long-term project that would put Toronto on the map of the football realm, his results only ended where he started. Mo finished with a 32-51-31 record while in complete control of the North.
Why Mo was Important to Toronto FC
Johnston helped shape the game of football. Every player seems to do it differently; whether it be through genius skill, fresh tactics or what can be done in the transfer market. Change comes through the game with players like Johnston, and TFC was lucky enough to have the Scot cross paths with the MLS.
Through incorporating everything from his story, Johnston was able to contribute to the world of football with fearlessness, passion and a peer joy for the game, to then shove it into the hearts of everyone around TFC.
He set the club up for the future and more when his tasks and potential at the manager’s seat was rather limited with Toronto.
Everything seen in today’s Reds’ squad has some form of what Mo would do within it. Aggressiveness and a certain feeding off of momentum swings. Players that score big goals with a defense that is always thinking about moving the ball back in the right direction.
A sense of hope is what Mo did from day one with the Reds, and definitely his professional football career. That hope cannot be forgotten in today’s world. It surely changed the Reds, and it can’t be stressed enough as to how much it changed the game of football.
Which portion of Johnston’s career had the biggest impact? How would you grade his stint with Toronto FC? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!