Picture the scene. You’re a professional footballer. You take a chance and leave your home country and move to Toronto to play for the city’s new MLS team, Toronto FC. You score TFC’s first-ever goal (in front of home fans). You get TFC’s first-ever red card. Seat cushions have rained down on your head and you now have a chant dedicated to you.
Just another tick box on the career achievements of today’s Successful Brit in Toronto: Danny Dichio, Head Coach of Juniors at the Toronto FC Academy and Club Ambassador for Toronto FC.
Brits in Toronto caught up with this very busy bloke to hear about how he came to Toronto, some on-the-pitch memories and where he likes to spend his free time when not coaching the footballing stars of tomorrow …
What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city/club of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned? Guessing that TFC played a massive part in that decision — what influence did you have in the choice as a player to come here?
We had always intended to move to North America as a family when my playing career had ended. Fortunately, I had the opportunity from a few clubs in the MLS to finish my playing days here in North America.
I came to an agreement with Preston North End in England to end my contract early as Toronto FC had already began their inaugural season and wanted me to join them ASAP.
I had never been to Toronto before and was little bit worried for my family as we were venturing into the unknown, but I was excited to join a newly formed expansion team in their first-ever season.
It did not take us long to fall in love with the city and we immediately knew that this was a place we felt very comfortable in … and now call our home.
What steps did you — or a manager/rep — take to land your first Toronto role? What is your responsibility now at TFC?
Toronto FC made first contact me with as they knew there was interest from other clubs in the MLS to bring me over from England. I had spent some time with Chicago Fire who wanted to discuss a deal, but there were problems involving obtaining a work visa.
Toronto FC proposed a deal for me to come over ASAP if I could get an early release from my contract in England.
The position I hold now at Toronto FC is the Academy Head Coach with the U17 team and I am also the Club Ambassador. My role is to develop younger players at Toronto FC and help them in their pathway to hopefully making it as a professional one day.
Standout memory as a TFC player?
Obviously the game against Chicago Fire where we scored our first ever goal in MLS history. It was a very emotional day for all involved as we had not scored a single goal in our first five games of the season.
I was lucky enough to get on the end of a cross to tap home the opening goal. I will never forget the celebrations that day in the stadium after the goal went in.
The club had given out foam seat cushions to every fan and as we celebrated the goal … these seat cushions rained down from every section of the stands onto the pitch. We had to wait 10 minutes or so for the pitch to be cleared!
To add to this crazy day, I unfortunately got myself sent off later in the game after an altercation with a Chicago player, but amazingly for the first time in my career, I received a rousing applause from our home fans as I left the field.
What’s the best/worst aspects of living in Toronto?
Best aspects of living in Toronto are the people are very friendly and we feel that it is a very safe city to bring our young family up. Toronto also has an amazing mix of different cultures from around the world that all respect and abide by the country they are living in.
I love that there is so much in the GTA that you can do, whether it’s sports orientated with all our various teams to support. There are excellent museums and parks to wander through as well as the small beaches you can sit and relax at.
I really like how there are different little pockets of the city that have their own individual character — whether it’s due to the cultural background of that area or the historic architecture.
Worst aspects has to be the cold in the winter months! I am not too bothered about the snow as I like the changes with the seasons … and I love getting out in the snow with the kids … but when that wind chill hits -30 or -40 then that’s a problem.
Also the distance to England is obviously not a short trip, so its hard at times to only see our parents/grandparents once a year.
Do you make an effort to connect with other Brits in the city, or just meet them when chance allows it? Any recommended pubs/eateries/other places for homesick Brits to meet each other and network?
I am always running into Brits all over the city. A lot of them are big football fans and watch the Premier League on TV which I cover at the weekends with Sportsnet TV.
If I am going out for a drink and listening to live music, then I like to go to The Orbit Room on College Street. It has a great atmosphere with some quality live bands. The only problem is the owner/manager “Tim” is a massive Spurs fan!
There are a lot of good eateries around the city, but I have yet to find a good pie and mash cafe.
I miss my curry a lot and have just recently found an excellent small family-run restaurant in The Junction called Curry Twist.
There are a couple of nice fish and chip shops around the city with my favourite being Chippy’s on Queen Street West.
Another thing I really miss is the traditional Sunday roast carvery which you would find at your local pub.
Your pick for the Euros?
I have a sneaky feeling that England are going to surprise a few people! As long as they can stay injury free and keep faith with the younger core of players that we have.
Other than that, I feel France will have a decent tournament at home in front of their own fans.
Open question/comment: feel free to write anything here/advice/tips on a Brit living in, or moving to, Toronto.
Do your homework on the different areas in the city that suit your living needs. If you have a young family then there are some great pockets to live and bring up a young family.
If you are young and want to live in a vibrant up-and-coming area, then there are so many popping up now instead of going for the standard expensive downtown condo.
Good luck with the rest of the season and thank you Danny for sharing those TFC memories and passing on the good eating tips!