Smyrniotis On Life After Forge: ‘You Have To Have Ambition’
Having won four playoff championship titles after reaching five straight finals, the whispers have continued to grow: has Bobby Smyrniotis outgrown the CPL?
It’s no secret that Hamilton sports fans would love to see him stay: the gaffer is well-liked, and he operates the club like a well-oiled machine. Speaking on TSN Ottawa 1200 with AJ Jakubec and Gordon Smith following his dramatic fourth title win, however, saw the revelation that life after Forge is on Bobby’s mind.
When asked if he had goals beyond his current station, Bobby’s answer made it clear that the four-time CPL champion has aspirations beyond the league he’s helped put on the map.
“I think that’s how I’ve always lived my life, to be honest. I’ve said before that if you’re involved in this sport you have to have ambition because of that upward movement to be part of the food chain that is football, otherwise you stagnate. But, the most important thing is to remain humble and focus on today. Focus on what you can control.”
Having skirted around the subject of the national team, AJ Jakubec then asked Smyrniotis directly how attractive the vacant Canadian men’s national team post looked.
“It’s a pretty good group of players, AJ,” replied Smyrniotis with a laugh. “I think we would all agree on that.”
“As a coach who was born in this country, who has gone through the system of youth football and really been a fan of the national team through my youth – remembering those struggles in 1986, although I was young, it’s one of my first memories in football. You can’t say that it’s not something very interesting in front of you as a coach, like any other job that has that upward trajectory.”
The Forge FC head coach describes the current national team as being filled with a lot of high quality and motivated players coming into a transition period: while there’s a great generation of young talent, veteran athletes who have been staple features like Atiba Hutchinson are starting to step down. For Smyniotis, the next great challenge is finding a new balance for Les Rouges.
Smyrniotis is no stranger to some of those faces: having co-founded Sigma FC, the League1 Ontario side he once helmed helped produce national team talents like Cyle Larin, Richie Laryea, Kyle Bekker, and Manjrekar James, the latter two of whom just won a trophy with Bobby on Saturday.
His transition to professional football proved even more fruitful, with the current Forge FC boss – one of just two inaugural CPL coaches still with their side since the league launched in 2019 – leading his club to five straight league finals with four title wins, and Bobby showcasing himself as an astute tactician along the way.
Under his guidance, the hammers also made history as the first CPL side to quality for the Champions Cup and the first to reach the Canadian Championship Final in a competition where they’ve gone toe-to-toe with much higher-budget MLS teams multiple times.
With his Forge FC side looking likely to jump beyond Toronto FC in the next Concacaf club ranking update, it’s fair to say that whispers of being unqualified seem unfair – rather, they’re a byproduct of a national team that has drastically exceeded all expectations in recent years, resulting in a growing fanbase eager to keep that new status quo in place.
Bobby seems quite humble after working in the proverbial trenches of Canadian football for so long, but he definitely has the ambition to aim higher and a trophy case to back up the move. The real question, it seems, is whether that could lead straight to a national team post, or a different higher-level opportunity first.
The Canadian Premier League’s only other title-winning head coach, Pa-Modou Kah, aimed for MLS heights. He coached in MLS NEXT Pro for a season after proving the runner-up for the FC Dallas post and assisted playoff-clinchers Charlotte FC this year.
For now, Bobby’s ambition simply drives him forward, to wherever that higher level may be.
“You have to have ambition as a coach to be able to be at Real Madrid one day. I know that sounds crazy, but I always ask our players to think in that same way, because that’s the only thing that keeps on pushing you forward and keeps pushing your standards higher, and allows you to be very successful on and off the pitch.”
Whatever happens next, one can expect that Bobby Smyrniotis will dedicate himself to the task in totality, and embrace that he gets to play a role in what has been an iconic time for football in the country. It’s far from perfect, but he’s proud of where Canada currently finds itself.
“Canadian soccer is at the best point it’s ever been. I’ve lived it from a very young age: men’s national team, women’s national team at World Cups, eleven professional clubs, a massive network of League1 Canada across the country, the idea of a women’s professional league coming… sometimes we hear some negative things out there on Canadian soccer. This is the best period of Canadian soccer we’ve ever had. We just need to keep on pushing forward.”
So to, it seems, will Bobby.
Header Image Photo Credit: David Chant