Mo knows soccer

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Great Scot, Glasgow native and new Toronto Football Club head coach Maurice (Mo) Johnston certainly does not lack confidence.

At a media conference to announce his hiring yesterday, the former Scotland international proclaimed that Toronto F.C. will be a winner, right from the start -- despite the fact that the two other Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment properties, the Leafs and the Raptors, are not exactly championship teams.

"Trust me, it's not going to be difficult," Johnston said. "I am going to bring the best back here. It's going to be like the Canadian national team in the years to come."

Johnston, who is a legend in Scottish soccer circles, said recruiting international-calibre Canadian players will be the key to success when Toronto F.C. begins play next season.

"If I could put all Canadians on the field, I would," he said.

Most of Canada's top soccer players compete in the various European professional leagues, but Johnston said most are "dying" for the chance to play at home.

"It's going to be like a Cup final every week to them," Johnston said, adding that already has began recruiting. Canadian international Jim Brennan of Newmarket is expected to be his first signing.

Johnston, 43, led Scotland to the 1990 World Cup in Italy, scoring six goals in eight games. He also played professional soccer for 21 years (1980-2001), including stints in the English Premier League (Everton and Watford), a year with Nantes of the French Premier League, and with three Scottish Premier clubs (Celtics, Rangers and Hearts).

He has spent the past 10 seasons in the MLS, four as a coach and six as a player. His record at the helm of the New York Red Bulls during the 2005 and 2006 seasons was 5-4-8.

But Johnston is perhaps best known as the first Catholic since World War II to play for the predominately Protestant Rangers club, a move that, to this day, is a point of contention with many Celtic fans.

"There has been talk about a movie deal," Johnston said. "It never goes away, trust me. But it doesn't bother me at all."

Johnston described himself as a no-nonsense coach, who gets the most out of his players.

"The guys who come here, will want to play for me. I know they will. I'm a guy who wants to win everyday," he said. "I'm up front I'm honest. I'm not a yes-man."

Johnston is expected to announce his assistant coach in the next couple of days.

Johnston said winning soccer along with an influx of Canadian players will help the MLS succeed in Toronto where pro soccer has not before.

"We (MLSEL) now have three sports -- hockey, basketball and soccer. I aim to put soccer first and foremost," he said, with a laugh. "It's not going to happen. Hockey's your main sport, I understand that. But I know the fans are going to come and watch."


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