BURNLEY ENGLAND - JANUARY 29: Burton Albion manager Paul Peschisolido looks dejected during the FA Cup sponsored by Eon 4th Round match between Burnley and Burton Albion at Turf Moor on January 29 2011 in Burnley England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
This weekend, the number of Canadians managing professionally in Europe went from one to zero. English League Two side Burton Albion sacked Scarborough native Paul Peschisolido.
It's no mystery why Burton Albion would let Peschisolido go: their form has gone down the toilet. The Brewers have lost six in a row and ten of their last thirteen; the team's last win came on Boxing Day. There were freak show scores, like losing 3-0 away to Port Vale and 2-0 at home to bottomfeeding Hereford. Managers are hired to be fired and something had to be shaken up at Pirelli Stadium.
But this is still a team which took Burnley to extra time away in the League Cup, which was in the promotion chase until Christmas, and which isn't all that far removed from their first promotion into the Football League in 2009. For teams not as well-supported as the likes of AFC Wimbledon, that first step into League football is a steep one and Burton Albion's managed it as well as anybody in recent memory. Peschisolido can boast two and a half seasons of surpassed expectations, dodging relegation and keeping competitive, along with one run of ghastly and ultimately fatal form.
He's almost the opposite of Stephen Hart. Hart parleyed a good 2007 Gold Cup and a fair 2009 one against Jamaica and El Salvador into a career as Canada's national team manager which seems at no risk of ending. His 2011 Gold Cup was catastrophic, Canada has looked awful at times against minnows in World Cup qualifying, and the friendlies have been occasionally decent (beating Honduras's "B" team in Montreal, the Ukraine friendly in 2010) and generally awful.
Paul Peschisolido for Canada manager? Well, why not?
Naturally, it's not a given Canada should be led by a Canadian at all. Our women's team seems in good hands with Englishman John Herdman, and regardless of the controversy over previous boss and Italian Carolina Morace she certainly gave the women more than anybody since (German) Holger Osieck gave the men. Duane Rollins quite fairly made this point when I raised Peschisolido on Twitter; if he was Dutch I probably wouldn't even think about him.
But how many managers of worldwide repute would take the Canada job and be happy with it? The Canadian Soccer Association isn't going to pay Premier League or Championship dollars for its manager. Plucking a manager from elsewhere in the world introduces language and cultural problems: even Holger was ultimately unable to corral the competing demands of big egos and mediocre journeymen which define the Canadian national setup. CSA lifer Hart has kept those egos in check, Canadian legend Dale Mitchell failed and was brutally betrayed by Dwayne De Rosario, Jim Brennan, and Julian de Guzman for his trouble. Obviously a Canadian pedigree is no guarantee of success there, but it has to be better than somebody completely new to our ridiculous and dysfunctional men's soccer program.
Knowledge of Canadian ideosyncracities isn't a must, but it would be helpful. And if the Canadian Soccer Association could only get around Peschisolido's level anyway then why not hire Peschisolido? They aimed far lower in their two most recent choices: Mitchell coached Canada's U-20 to mixed success and Hart had accomplished even less. Two and a half seasons in the cut-throat English Football League beats any number of CSA youth camps or summer campaigns with Halifax King of Donair.
We are often told that the real key to success for our national team is to find some young manager who's working his way up the ranks and grab him as a stepping stone to the big clubs, sort of like the Vancouver Whitecaps are trying with Martin Rennie. Your average foreign coach on the rise isn't interested in crossing an ocean to muck around for a qualifying campaign with a nation ranked in the seventies for an awfully small amount of money. On the women's side we can get those coaches because international soccer is so far superior to the clubs and Canada has a world-class program. Those considerations aren't present for the men.
I'd love to bring Jose Mourinho to Metcalfe Street to clean house but let's assume that's not practical. Better Peschisolido than somebody from a similar level who'd be getting in completely over his head, or some washed-up old goon who's taking the job for a paycheque at the end of his career than for his reputation at the beginning of it. Peschisolido has mostly beaten expectations and, at 40 years old, will be looking for a quick chance to prove he's still a gaffer on the rise so he can move on to bigger things.
There may be practical reasons not to sack Hart on such sort notice, though with his abilities so well-established and Canada's performances so consistently sub-standard I wouldn't let anything short of legal problems stop me. But, in the hypothetical world where Hart goes gently into that good night and the CSA is searching for a more ambitious replacement than its usual list of staff coaches, could we realistically beat bringing a Canadian legend home?