In the winter of 2006, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to London to visit my Aunt and Uncle. In short, it was an absolutely fantastic trip. My family and I saw the houses of Parliament, the crown jewels, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and even took a short trip up to Scotland. Truly, it was the trip of a lifetime.
But for me – the consummate soccer fan – the highlight of the vacation didn’t come in a museum or at a monument. Rather, it came on an otherwise normal Wednesday night southeast of London at – you guessed it – a soccer match. The game was Fulham at Charlton Athletic and it was unforgettable. It ended in a 2-2 draw (Brian McBride scored Fulham’s first) and Collins John hit the pitch in the 65th minute to a raucous chorus of cheers and songs from the Fulham section (where I was sitting with my cousin, a Fulham fan). John – who had just turned 21 – had his best Fulham days behind him at that point, but the sense of excitement, the knowledge that at any moment John could produce a goal out of nothing was still palpable amongst the Fulham faithful.
Ultimately, John couldn’t keep generating that excitement. He left Fulham, bounced around Europe a bit and now – just three years after that night in SE London – is rumored to be on the verge of joining the Fire. Should John join the Fire – where he would be reunited with ex-Fulham teammate McBride – he would be coming in at what has to be the lowest point of his young career. He has struggled with his fitness and attitude in recent years and he failed to score before being released from his last team – KSV Roeselare of the Belgian League – in December.
But despite his baggage and loss of form, it seems as if Technical Director Frank Klopas and the Fire are willing to give John a chance at making the 2010 roster.
“I’ve met with Collins and we know he’s a quality player,” Klopas said. “He’s had some issues the last couple of years which I know of and that is important. In this league with the salary cap you have to take calculated risks to make sure you make the right decisions. Our goal is to bring him into camp and give him an opportunity to see how he fits in and make a decision at that time.”
Klopas has spoken to McBride about John, who he would likely pair with up top should the Fire bring the Dutchman to Chicago.
“I’ve spoken to Brian about him and I’ve spoken to [former Fire defender and John’s ex-teammate Carlos Bocanegra] about him,” Klopas said. “You have to understand when he was at Fulham he was a very young player. He had a lot of success but as a young player things do happen. I think it’s important to have the right people around you, to guide you in the right direction.”
“But he’s a guy that’s 24 years old. We’re not talking about a guy that’s 30 or 31. He’s played at a high level and it’s important to make sure that he understands that’s what we need out of him here.”
If Klopas determines that John has his head screwed on tight and is determined to play hard for the Fire, then I am all for bringing him into the fold. But should John join the Fire in preseason training and not show anything but hard work and pure dedication, Klopas should just say goodbye. The Fire just can’t afford – financially or in terms of chemistry – to have a player on the roster not be fully committed to bringing a MLS Cup back to Chicago next year.