The former Toronto FC and Newcastle manager left MLS seven years ago on his terms, and now he’s hoping for a chance to return and continue what he started.
John Carver spent much of his life dreaming of being the manager of Newcastle United. Now, after realizing that dream, he has set his sights on a new goal.
Carver wants another chance to coach in Major League Soccer.
The former Toronto FC head coach left MLS early in the 2009 season due to personal reasons he kept private at the time, and six years later he finds himself admiring the growth of the league and believing he can return and do a good job running a team.
“I want to go somewhere where I can build something,” Carver told Goal USA . “I’m probably a lot more placid and calmer than I used to be. I don’t take things as personally after the five months I’ve gone through with Newcastle. I just see how it’s developed. I keep a close eye on MLS. I watch all the games. I even watch the games on Y Scout, the scouting tool. I know more than people might think I would about the league. If an opportunity came around again I’d love to go back into it and make a go of it. There’s no reasons for me not to stay and develop a career in MLS.”
When Carver left Toronto FC abruptly in 2009, there were rumors circulating that he left because of then-TFC Director of Soccer Mo Johnson. They were rumors Carver refuted at the time, and now he admits that part of the reason he left was in order to return to England to be with his parents, who were both ill. Carver’s mother and father have since passed away, and he feels as though he has unfinished business in MLS.
“I do miss the fact that I think they do give you a chance to build something in MLS, whereas in this country it’s very, very difficult to build something because you’re on such a short time span as a manager,” Carver said. “I’ve worked at every level so I feel as if I’ve got the tools to offer something to an MLS team and there’s no reason for me not to stay this time.”
Carver took over Toronto FC in 2008, guiding the second-year team to a seven-point improvement from its expansion season. TFC started the 2009 season with a 2-2-2 record when Carver stepped down to return to England, where he joined Plymouth Argyle as an assistant coach later that same year.
Carver eventually returned to Newcastle, spending four years there as an assistant before being handed the managerial position upon the departure of Alan Pardew to Crystal Palace. Carver led Newcastle through the second half of the 2014-15 season, helping the Magpies escape relegation. He was let go by Newcastle last summer.
Carver endured his share of criticism during his time in charge of Newcastle, but he doesn’t regret having had the chance to realize his dream of coaching his hometown club.
“Newcastle was everything I expected it to be, but what I think happens is that when you’re a local lad and you’re the manager of a club that has 52,000 people there every other week, plus the millions who follow the club, there is an awful lot of pressure on you,” Carver said. “Many people would have walked away from the situation but I decided to stick with it, and as daft as it may seem I would do it all over again because it’s taught me an awful lot.”
Carver believes he has grown as a coach since he left MLS, and also learned some valuable lessons from his time in Toronto.
“The biggest thing I would change is I wouldn’t take things so seriously. I would listen to more people,” he said. “I would have a No. 2 who could give me good advice and keep me calm. I am a different person now. Certainly in that five months I was manager of Newcastle I was calmer than I’d ever been.
“I didn’t read any newspapers. I didn’t go on the internet and listen to the fans, and that helps,” Carver said. “When I was (in Toronto) I was doing all of that because I cared and I wanted to know what people thought. Sometimes you have to just take yourself away from all of that. If you believe in what you’re doing then you shouldn’t have to go look at that stuff. It’s a bit of insecurity because you’re looking for reassurances but you don’t need to do that if you believe in what you’re doing.”
Carver acknowledges that he made mistakes during his stint with Toronto FC, but believes he has a better understanding of what it takes to succeed in MLS.
“When I went into the Toronto job I felt as if I had a point to prove and I was probably running before I could walk,” Carver said. “The owners in Toronto were fantastic. It was a great organization and I was probably trying to move faster than they wanted me to move. When you step away from it and understand how MLS works you realize it’s not about going in head first and going a hundred miles an hour. You’ve got to have a structure and a plan in place where you can develop the club for the long term, and that’s what I’d like to do.”
As much as Carver yearns for another chance in MLS, he doesn’t regret his decision to leave Toronto FC. Along with having had the opportunity to spend more time with his parents before they died, Carver believes he has also had the opportunity to grow as a person and coach.