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Volume 24 No. 158
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Kevin Payne Looks To Change Culture At Toronto FC, End "Six Seasons Of Futility"

The TORONTO STAR’s Daniel Girard conducted a Q&A with new Toronto FC President & GM Kevin Payne about his plans for the club heading into Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft. Below are excerpts from the conversation:

Q: Why is the so-called culture change at TFC so important to you?
Payne: Obviously, you worry in any situation where a team has had six seasons of futility and really only one season in which the team was even close to the playoffs. I would be naïve not to assume that there has been damage done to the attitude of everybody around the first team. We really need to change the way things are done on an everyday basis.

Q: What does that mean in practical terms?
Payne: I’m going to do some things a little differently here than I ever did them at DC United. We’re going to actually have some symbolism and some slogans, if you will, on the wall, which I’ve never been a big believer in. We want to create a culture here where players think it’s a privilege to put on the TFC shirt. And, the way to begin that process is by addressing every single day.

Q: Given TFC’s history of futility, is it difficult to go out and sell the club to prospective players and staff?
Payne: It hasn’t been so far. Certainly when people see the facilities here they recognize that everything is in place to be very successful. The facilities here are by far the best in Major League Soccer. ... I think people whom we talk to also look at my track record and they know that there’s going to be real energy put into improving this team. We’re not going to leave any stone unturned. We’re going to be demanding but also supportive.

Q: What will make the 2013 season a success for you?
Payne: Obviously if we were in the playoffs. But I think even if we were in the conversation about the playoffs late in the season, if we’re banging on the door, fighting for a playoff spot. But I’ll be much more focused on ‘did we change the environment here the way we want to.'

Q: What are you asking from fans?
Payne: I don’t necessarily say patience. I would like them to understand that what we’re trying to embark on is a process. We’re not going to fix this overnight. … But I do want them to recognize that we have a way of thinking about this and we’re trying to create a plan that takes us over a period of time that allows us to continue to improve for several years. ... I really do hope our fans will pay attention to what we’re trying to accomplish. I certainly will ask for their support. I understand why they might be somewhat skeptical or impatient or frustrated (TORONTO STAR, 1/17).