Danny boy backs his coach

BILL LANKHOF, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

Danny Dichio dissed?

Some fans believe so, but Dichio wasn't questioning his coach's sanity yesterday or issuing "play me or trade me" ultimatums. "I've heard from blogs and stuff that (coach John Carver) and me are (feuding) but it's not like that," Dichio said yesterday, two days after being left out of the starting lineup in the team's 2-0 season-opening defeat.

Carver's decision is a bit like Mats Sundin being bumped to the fourth line. Or Roy Halladay not starting opening day. He's the talk of the soccer town. Dichio, who didn't speak with reporters after the game, wasn't ducking the issue yesterday. "Like a pro in any sport, when you're not in the starting lineup, there's disappointment. But I've been in this game long enough and I understand the coach has to make a selection and no one man is bigger than the club. I'm not going to be grumpy and not speak to anyone and demand I should be (playing). The coach knows what I can do and he didn't feel my strengths were the best suited to start against (Columbus). I'm fine with that," Dichio said.

"I'm not going to let the Hurrah of Danny Dichio not starting bubble into a major storm. I want this team to succeed and if that means me not playing and boys starting in my place, then so be it."

He might not be bigger than the club but he came close last year. He scored the team's first goal, a 6-foot-3, 210 pound ribbon of steel, who was about as easy for defenders to move as the CN Tower. In a Sun Media poll he was named the city's most popular athlete and he did admit that if this had happened a few years ago it probably would've upset him.

"When I was younger, you think you can walk on water and think you should be in the starting lineup no matter how you're playing. As you get older you realize coaches do things for a reason -- like playing big guys against some teams and quick guys against other teams. That's all part of growing up and knowing the game."

If there was ever any question about who is calling the shots - last year's coach and current general manager Mo Johnston remains a presence most days in training --they were probably answered by Carver's latest moves. He mentioned he wouldn't have any problem sitting out "big-name" players last week and everyone just smiled and nodded -- but it was a surprise when he left both Dichio and veteran goaltender Greg Sutton off the starting lineup.

"The team is going to evolve over the next month or so because we're looking to bring players in and improve," said Carver, who is keen on upgrading pace and speed. "We're trying to bring the standard up: as you saw there were two big names not involved. But, who's to say they won't be in the next game. I'm going to think about it, reassess it."

Carver didn't leave Dichio or Sutton out of the lineup lightly. "You treat them with respect as senior players. I've had a chat with Danny and Sut and their attitudes have been first class. They've responded the way I wanted. They didn't drop their lips on the floor ... they've got to give off the right signals for the rest of the group."

Dichio led the Reds with six goals last season, one of the few highlights of a six-win season. But, he's also 33, on a team that needs to be better. "I believe I can still help this team but I've also got one eye on when I'm finished playing," said Dichio, who wants to coach someday, hopefully he said with FC. So, maybe that has something to do with his conciliatory mood. Anyway, Saturday, instead of playing he worked with substitutes on passing drills.

"I'd like to work with the younger kids this year. I've been in football since I was nine years old. It's my life. It's what I breathe. Now that I'm 33 it's still something I want to do every day. It's what brings me my most happiness outside of my family. To take that out of my life would be very hard."


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