TORONTO – With Darren O’Dea's departure from Toronto FC this week, the Reds didn't just say goodbye to a starting center back, but a captain as well. Luckily for them, head coach Ryan Nelsen saw a natural succesor to the newly departed Irishman in Steven Caldwell.
“I think Steven is a natural leader out there,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com. “He is very vocal. Even when Darren was here, Steven was probably more of a leadership role type of person. He wants responsibility. He sees where the club is going and he wants to take it on his shoulders to move it forward.”
A veteran of English soccer with clubs such as Newcastle United, Sunderland, Burnley, Wigan and Birmingham City on his résumé, the well-traveled Caldwell certainly comes to his new role with plenty of prior experience.
“It’s an honor for me to be captain,” Caldwell said. “It’s something that I have always enjoyed throughout my career. Hopefully I take it in stride. I’ve never felt any great pressure about it. Hopefully I can bring some help to the lads.
“I’ve actually captained almost every team that I have played for at some point. I’ve also been lucky to captain Scotland once or twice. Managers have always given me that responsibility. I enjoy it and it maybe brings a little bit more out of me. I think [Nelsen] felt I was the right man to lead the team forward and I hope I can prove him right. He has shown a lot of faith in me and I hope to repay him.”
As a no-nonsense central defender, the 32-year-old Scotsman had been lauded as a team leader right from his very first training session with TFC back in May. In that vein, Caldwell doesn’t see his role with the the club changing significantly now that he will be wearing the armband.
“I think first and foremost, that the most important thing is to lead by example and take care of things on and off the field in a professional manner,” Caldwell said. “It’s not about speaking down to people or trying to boss people around, it’s about trying to bring out the best in people and also helping the young guys to be the captains of the future.”
Caldwell has already enjoyed significant success in England while playing a leadership role on teams that have won trophies and earned promotion to the Premier League. Now having assumed the captaincy for Toronto FC, he would like nothing more than to be a vital part of bring a winning tradition to Canada’s original MLS franchise.
“I’m completely confident that we have a bright future,” Caldwell stated. “The most important thing for me is it is a football club and a franchise that’s not going to stop until it gets the best players and the right players for success. That’s why I came here.”
“I’m not here because Toronto is a beautiful city and it is a holiday. First and foremost, I want to get to the playoffs and then to win the whole thing. If I go home and I haven’t achieved that, it will be a big disappointment for me.”