Mo knows soccer

GEORGE GROSS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:46 PM ET

The brass of Toronto FC has placed all its cards into the hands of former Scottish international Mo Johnston.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., and its soccer impresario -- chief operating officer Tom Anselmi -- are hopeful that, after the initial disastrous season on the field, Johnston will lead the team into the promised land. After all, that's why Anselmi agreed to have Johnston function not only as head coach, but also as general manager.

It intrigued me to find out what makes the former Glasgow Ranger tick.

But finding him these days would take the skills of, say, a Sherlock Holmes because one day he might be in South America, a couple of days later in England or Scotland, and the week after that, perhaps in Central Europe to look for possible recruits. And to get him on his cell phone takes one more technologically skilled than me, because either his phone is busy or shut off.

At any rate, I figured a little research might give me an idea of what the real talents of the Scotsman are.

Well, I already knew that his full name is Maurice John Giblin Johnston and that he was born on April 13, 1963 in Glasgow. The talented kicker made his name by representing Scotland in 38 internationals, scoring 14 goals and playing for both Scottish rivals, Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic. That's like playing for the Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.

Actually, detailed research told me that Little Mo (not to be confused with the late tennis star Maureen Connolly) began his soccer career in 1981 with the Scottish team Partick Thistle, for whom he scored 41 goals in 21/2 seasons. His wanderlust then took him to the English club Watford, where he tallied 23 times in a season and a half and added a trip to the prestigious FA Cup final before moving to Glasgow and the celebrated Celtic team. He scored 55 goals in three years for the Catholic championship team.

After a two-year sojourn in France and the Nantes club, where he scored 22 goals in two seasons, he decided to return to Scotland in July 1989 but decided against re-signing with Celtic and instead opted to sign for the Protestant Glasgow Rangers, which created quite a controversy because MoJo is Catholic. Rangers fans, though, loved him because he scored 46 goals in 100 matches and helped them to two of nine Scottish League titles between 1988 and 1997.

Eventually, his reputation filtered through to the United States and, in 1996, he signed with the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer, contributing 31 goals in 149 games before moving to New York and eventually down to the shores of Lake Ontario on the CNE grounds.

Now I'm curious to find out how successful he'll be in his second year with Toronto FC. But I'm especially curious about whether he might put on his scoring boots to help the team.

After all, he is only 44 years old and Sir Stanley Matthews played in top competition at 50.

HOWARD SPEAKS UP

Friend Dick Howard has adjusted some statements he made last week about the Canadian Soccer Association.

Although admitting that the overall structure and funding of our national teams program needs a lot of attention, there are positives in technical areas, particularly in the referee development program under Joe Guest.

"It is now, however, the time for the CSA to allow a separate entity to develop the professional side of the game across Canada, as is the case in many countries around the world," Howard said. "Some positive strides are being made by Toronto FC, as well as Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact, the teams in the Canadian Soccer League and clubs such as the Toronto Lynx and Ottawa Fury in the United Soccer Leagues." Right on, Richard!

CANADA HEADS TO CHINA

Canada's national women's team left Friday for China to participate in a Four Nations Tournament at Guangzhou. Coach Even Pellerud took 21 players on the trip. They'll play against the US on Jan. 16, China on Jan. 18 and Finland on January 20. Eight of the girls are so young that they could take part in next winter's FIFA Under-20. The youngest -- 16-year-old Monica Lam-Feist -- could play in the U-17 Women's World Cup in New Zealand.


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