NASCA COACH OF THE WEEK POWERED BY SPORT CAREERS AGENCY: BOB MUNRO
- Has left his mark on Canada’s football landscape after over 50 years in his adopted homeland
- Once slept on the BOARDROOM TABLE as he dedicated himself to making Richmond Hill a powerhouse franchise
- Speaks of his debt of gratitude to the much-loved late Ontario Soccer Technical Director Gary Miller
- Gives his advice to younger coaches who are now aspiring to land a role as a TD
- Talks of his pride that there are now over 300 Scots plying their trade coaching in the USA and Canada
BOB MUNRO has been given a life sentence.
The 74-year-old Scotsman, a hugely respected football figure in his adopted homeland of Canada, is hereby charged with being addicted to The Beautiful Game.
So far in the North American Scottish Coaches Association (NASCA) Coach of the Week Series we have looked at a NCAA Division One coach, two female pioneers cutting a path for others to follow and the ex-pro player who found a new life in the States after hanging up his boots.
This coach? Bob Munro? This guy was a TRAILBLAZER.
Bob's family first emigrated to Canada when he was 12 and he played high school soccer for Riverdale Collegiate, situated off Danforth Avenue near Greektown in the East end of Toronto.
His dad, though, grew homesick and he returned home to Scotland two years later.
Stuck in an engineering apprenticeship he knew would never be his life's calling, Bob escaped the daily grind by starring on the field for the likes of Govan High, Possil YM and Anniesland Waverley in the football hotbed of Glasgow.
Embedded in the young Munro's psyche, though, lived the memories of the other country of his childhood. Canada.
Bob had caught a glimpse of another way of life and he smiled: "I saw all these nice cars, the Cougars and the Mustangs, and thought I wanted a bit of that!
"I came back to Canada when I was 22 and played in the National Soccer League and the coaching bug eventually bit because my two sons were playing the game and I got involved.
"I was working in the auto body shops and had a long time at Mercedes before I began to move towards coaching full-time.
"I played in the NSL and won a couple of Ontario Cups, I was earning $70 a week playing which was a lot then. Great times.
"I was playing against all these superb fellow immigrant players from the likes of Portugal and Italy. It was a good standard.
"So nowadays I watch the new Canadian Premier League and pray the money stays with the project and it keeps growing."
It was the late, great Gary Miller - a much-loved former Technical Director of Ontario Soccer who sadly died last year at the age of 63 - who truly saw the coaching potential in Bob.
Miller was running a scholarship program business identifying Canadian players who had what it takes to go to the USA and play Varsity soccer.
Bob explained: "I would travel all over Canada, Victoria, Newfoundland, wherever identifying the best players and trying to show them how they could flourish in the NCAA in the States.
"I loved that job and we changed some lives. I went on to be on the Ontario Soccer Association staff for seven years and I was lucky.
"I was coaching Provincial sides and we travelled to the likes of Mexico, Argentina and England.
"There were games against the likes of Boca Juniors, Independiente at U-15 level and all the time I was learning more about the game from all these different cultures.
"I travelled to Cuba three times and even ended up working in Havana coaching for four months! It's been a helluva journey for sure."
That adventure, though, will always be dominated by the rise of one franchise on the outskirts of Toronto.
For 19 years, from 1996 to 2015 when he elected to retire as Technical Director, Bob Munro WAS Richmond Hill Soccer Club.
He smiled ruefully: "I used to get into work there at 10am and we would have games scheduled that night that finished at 11pm under the lights.
"At first I was still living in Burlington for the first seven years, which is a bit away.
"There were times when I'd just get myself a beer and hamburger after the game and sleep on the BOARDROOM TABLE!
"I knew I had stuff to do next morning and it was the best option."
The job title of Technical Director is a powerful lure for European coaches who want to work in North America.
Every top youth club has one, the posts pay well and vitally they mean you can work full-time in the game.
Yet they are multi-faceted roles, with many challenges and obstacles to success. No one knows the peaks and the troughs better than Bob.
He recalled: "When I went to Richmond Hill we had 1,200 players and when I left we had 7,500.
"Looking back, we really had the chance to build something special there over those two decades.
"It was about recruiting the right coaches and personalities, that's what matters most.
"My advice to a young coach becoming a TD for the first time is to get an assistant you can trust.
"You CANNOT do it on your own, you need someone next to you with the same values and philosophy on the game.
"Right now, I see so many young coaches with multiple coaching licences in Canada and the USA but do they have the necessary experience in dealing with players and parents?
"Be humble and realise you are lucky to be working full-time in football, I still feel lucky every day I wake up in this industry even now.
"The recruitment of your coaching staff is vital as a TD, get those who are honest and transparent with the parents. That's what works best, not just telling them what they want to hear."
It's six years now since Bob decided to pull the pin at Richmond Hill and retire from his role as TD.
He had placed the club in amongst the powerhouse franchises of the soccer-mad province of Ontario.
They had their rightful slot alongside Vaughan, Woodbridge, North Toronto Nitros and Oakville in an area that has bred so many stellar players for the Canadian National Teams.
Leaving is a decision he regrets and he confessed: "I was the one who decided to go and when I look back on it I should have asked myself: "What am I going to do?"
"I had been full-time there for almost two decades and brought stability but I made that decision and since I left there have been five TDs in five years.
"So if I am honest with myself I made a mistake there.
"Look, the TD job CAN last for a long time - as it did for me in those 19 years at Richmond Hill - but that depends on you being a loyal individual and having a good Board.
"That is huge, you should have to go in there and make your reports to justify what you are doing.
"Yet you have been hired to do a technical job and they have to let you do it WITHOUT interference. That is crucial."
Munro the coach will always play down his tactical influence on the field.
He prefers to focus on the power of personality, the personal qualities of honesty and integrity that he feels the best youth coaches must always possess.
Yet he confesses he'd still love another shot in the top-drawer Ontario Player Development League and he said: "I loved coaching in the OPDL, you are working with the best youth players and I won a few titles with the Richmond Hill boys and it was a great feeling.
"We are Scottish, there is still that competitive streak in all of us, and I loved working with those ambitious and dedicated young Canadian players.
"With the Provincial teams I also had two years with the likes of Paul Stalteri and Dwayne de Rosario who would go on to be legends for Canada and I'm proud to have been a little part of their journey."
Six years on from the day when he supposedly retired from football Bob Munro is still going strong.
He remains a wanted commodity in the technical area, his expertise and coaching nous still highly valued by those in the know.
Bob revealed: "Even at my age at 74 I still have clubs asking to come in and I am coaching five nights a week right now!
"I have been working with Oak Ridges, Hamilton and we have a project at another club called Salt Fleet Stoney Creek that I am really enjoying as we look to build it up.
"Seeing that begin to take shape sparks your enthusiasm again and that never leaves me."
Bob last travelled home to Scotland in 2018 and like many of us who live and work in North America now he has discovered there is one element of football that hasn't yet quite translated to the place he now calls home.
The cutting sense of humour, the wind-ups, that ability to laugh at yourself...and others.
Bob stressed: "It's true, it's the people I miss in Scotland more than the place, that and the banter.
"That's why I still go for a pint here with the likes of the North Toronto Nitros Technical Director Billy Wilson and Bobby Lennox, fellow Scots, and one of my old Richmond Hill coaches Andy King who is a great guy but unfortunately English!
"You know, there were very few Scottish coaches when I first came here to Canada.
"So I love to be on the NASCA Zooms now when we have the famous coaches on to speak with us and I reflect on the fact there are over 300 of us now working in America and Canada.
"That makes me smile and feel proud of every Scot who has had the courage to take the leap of faith I did over 50 years ago.
"It's a harder jump to make now but it can still be done and I hope there are young Scottish coaches reading this who think: I'll have a bit of that."