TFC gives Dickov a second chance

GARETH WHEELER

, Last Updated: 3:45 AM ET

Toronto FC is about to find out if striker Paul Dickov can fill the void left up front since Danny Dichio's retirement last summer.

Director of Soccer Mo Johnston confirmed Dickov is on trial at the club, training with the rest of the team in Bradenton, Fla.

Speaking on TFC's website, Dickov seemed optimistic of his chances at sticking with the team this time, previously having been on trial at TFC in 2008.

"The last time I came here, (Toronto) I was very close to signing, but decided at the time it was best for me to stay in the Championship in England," Dickov said. "Obviously there is now a new manager (Preki) so I have come out here for a few days to join in training and hopefully we can sort something out."

Dickov is Johnston's guy, and it looks like Mo has a better shot at landing the former Manchester City, Blackburn and Leicester striker this time.

Johnston was disappointed when Dickov decided to sign at Leicester City instead of coming to Toronto. TFC has lacked sufficient quality in attack since Day 1.

The decision to stay in England was understandable from Dickov's perspective. He had played at Leicester from 2002-04, with the team playing at the highly competitive Championship level.

Things didn't go as planned for the former Scottish international in his second tour of duty, with opportunities simply not materializing. Dickov made only six starts in 25 appearances, scoring three goals for the club in 2008-09.

At the start of the 2009-10 season, Dickov was loaned to another Championship side, Derby County. In 16 appearances, he scored two goals.

In January, Dickov's contract was terminated by mutual consent.

It has been rumoured that a return to Derby County still could be in the works on a short-term deal. League One side Leeds United is another possible destination. Dickov trained at Elland Road last week, having ties to manager Simon Grayson. The two spent time together at Blackpool while Dickov was on loan in 2007-08, with the Scotsman scoring six goals in 12 appearances under Grayson.

If things had gone well for Dickov at Leeds last week, it's unlikely he would be in Florida at present. Leeds is in a fight for promotion from League One and Dickov could have provided attacking reinforcements for the stretch run.

Realistically, all of Dickov's options in England are short-term. If TFC offers him a longer-term deal with proper financial terms, a move across the Atlantic most certainly will be in the cards.

So, is Dickov the answer up front for TFC?

Dickov's work-rate never has come into question. His knack for getting stuck in and playing hard at a finesse position has won over many doubters over the years. At 5-foot-5, the physical element of Dickov's game is essential.

From a strategic point of view, Dickov fits well into Preki's 4-4-2 system. If paired with Dwayne de Rosario in attack, the two would form the hardest-working striking tandem in MLS.

Still, it's fair to question whether Dickov, at 37, will be able to handle Major League Soccer.

Obviously, the hideous turf in New York and Toronto having been replaced by grass is beneficial. But it's the travel which European players find to be the most difficult adjustment to playing in North America, particularly older players. Dichio himself struggled with both the surfaces and travel.

With so many injured players in camp, Dickov or no Dickov, it's a priority for TFC to get healthy bodies ready for the season, which begins in less than six weeks.

GARETH.WHEELER@SUNTV.CANOE.CA


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