April 14, 2024

John Herdman: The English Coach Who Turned Canadian Football Around

John Herdman

John Herdman is a legendary name in Canadian football. He is responsible for one of the greatest turnarounds in fortunes of all time. Under John Herdman’s leadership, the Canadian men’s team went from missing the World Cup for 36 years to qualifying for it as the best team in its qualification conference. After changing the football dynamic at the national level, John Herdman has recently signed with the Major League Soccer (MLS) team Toronto FC. In This post, we will find out more about John Herdman. Let’s get started.

John Herdman: All You Need To Know

The Qatar 2022 World Cup witnessed a lot of young coaches with short tenures. One of those coaches was Canada’s John Herdman. He made his World Cup debut as a coach for the first time during the 2022 Qatar World Cup. 

Prior to the World Cup, John Herdman had a short run not only as Canada’s coach but also in men’s football. Until he was hired as a coach for the men’s team, John Herdman stood out due to his great performance as the coach of the Canadian women’s team.

Although there are coaches who have jumped from men’s and women’s soccer, only a few have managed to stand out in the international arena. John Herdman wasn’t like that at all. In fact, as soon as he was hired as the coach of the Canadian men’s team, he led them to a World Cup berth for the first time in 36 years. 

Where did John Herdman play professionally?

Unlike many other coaches, the Consett, England-born coach had no stint in professional football as a player. The British debuted in the sport directly as a coach. 

John Herdman: Coaching Career

New Zealand Women’s Team

John Herdman began his career as a physical education teacher, which opened the doors to Sunderland’s youth teams. However, he decided to leave England and, in 2001, accepted an offer to promote women’s football in New Zealand. 

John Herdman did not take long to take command of the New Zealand women’s teams, leading them to some outstanding performances. With Herdman in charge of the U-20 team, New Zealand qualified for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. 

Leading the senior women’s team, Herdman also helped them qualify for the 2007 China and 2011 Germany World Cups. He led the women’s team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well.

Canadian Women’s Team

In 2011, the Football Federation of Canada called John Herdman to take the reins of its women’s teams. His arrival in charge was brilliant, since a few months later he led the team to gold at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara.

The coach also helped the team earn a ticket to the 2012 London Olympics, where they won the bronze medal. They then repeated the third place on the podium at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Herdman also helmed the Canadian women’s team during the 2015 World Cup, which was also held in Canada.

Canadian Men’s Team

In 2018, the coach made the decision to make the leap to the men’s team, taking the place of the Ecuadorian, Octavio Zambrano. When asked about his decision to switch from the women’s to the men’s team, Herdman said that he felt stagnation due to the lack of budget for the women’s teams. 

As of 2018, John Herdman took control of the men’s teams, although the vast majority of the games he has managed have been with the senior team. He only coached the Under-23 team for four games.

One of the big problems he encountered in the men’s team was a divided dressing room. As he explained, the group was totally based on the race and ethnicity of the footballers. The cultural diversity of the team became an issue in the dressing room.

However, the leader managed to give an identity to the Canadian team, which became a contender in CONCACAF competitions. Especially in the qualifying process for the next World Cup.

Leading up to the 2022 Qatar World Cup, John Herdman had a total of 45 games (31 wins, 4 draws, and 10 losses) with the senior team. The North American team stood out in the Qatar 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, having finished first in the CONCACAF qualifying process.

Canada was, without a doubt, the big surprise of the confederation’s qualifiers, throwing the proverbial wrench in the established power dynamic of Mexico and the United States. In the process, they achieved the second qualification to the World Cup in their history, ending a 36-year streak of absence.

2022 Qatar World Cup

The Canadian team arrived in Doha on a high. They performed spectacularly in the qualifiers and were expected to do well. However, they were drawn into a tough group F with Croatia, Belgium, and Morocco. 

In the first match, the Canadians performed admirably and narrowly lost 1-0 to a powerful Belgian team. However, their next match was a 4-1 thumping at the hands of Croatia, which resulted in Canada being knocked out of the World Cup. In the last group stage match against Morocco, the Canadians lost 2-1 and returned home without a point from the group stage. 

Toronto FC

Even though John Herdman was instrumental in turning the fortunes of Canadian football around, he recently left the head coaching job of the men’s team and joined the MLS team Toronto FC as its head coach. 

Speaking on his new journey as an MLS head coach, John Herdman said: “I am happy to get this new opportunity with Toronto FC. Personally, it was a good time for me to start a new challenge in my career, and the structure and environment of a club was a context to which I aspired. Being able to connect and collaborate on a daily basis with staff and players allows me to have access to a different developmental experience, both on and off the pitch. My goal has always been to leave the game in better shape and I’m sure that goal has been achieved for Canada.”

John Herdman’s assistant for the Canadian National Team took over as the interim head coach upon Herdman’s departure. 

After the news of John Herdman’s departure as the coach of the Canadian men’s national team became official, the Canadian Federation President Charmaine Crooks thanked him via a statement that read: “John Herdman is the greatest head coach in the history of Canada Soccer. We would like to thank him for his immense contribution to our game and we wish him the best in his new role at Toronto FC.”

John Herdman: Best Quotes

We knew Martinique were going to be a challenge, particularly in transition, but I think the players stuck to the plan and were able to take away some of the things they did.

There is a new DNA coming through, there is a new breed of footballer that we are bringing through, it was a transitional team and we knew that but we have no excuse.

Yeah, it’s terrible. It’s really terrible, the girls are fighting each other. They hate each other. You see all the black eyes and the bloody noses.

We are very comfortable where the group is and think you will see that passion and energy from everyone at the weekend.

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