Eckersley Expressive

Toronto defender hopes to return to the right back position in 2013 under ideal conditions.

“Express yourself.”

With those words, legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson sent a young player named Richard Eckersley unto the pitch five years ago.

The 23-year-old Eckersley is coming to appreciate the complex meaning of those simple words.

“It means basically go out and enjoy yourself,” Eckersley said. “Football is a game. You have to earn the right to play. But when we start dominating games a lot of the players will go out and express themselves and have a smile on their face while they’re doing it.”

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Joy, of course, was in short supply this year for TFC but after a few weeks to digest the season, Eckersley wants back at it.

“The only way is up. We had such a disappointing season. I think we can only improve. I’m looking forward to it.”

Forced into the middle by the release of Miguel Aceval and injuries to Dicoy Williams, Adrian Cann and Ty Harden, Eckersley has a stake in Paul Mariner’s global search for a new centre back.

Eckersley saw enough centre back to last a career and while playing off Darren O’Dea had its moments, Eckersley is looking forward to better times in his preferred position. That means Mariner needs to find a centre-back to complement O’Dea.

“It’s no secret, I want to get back to right back next year. It’s not that I have anything against playing centre back but I like to get out and run and that’s easier when you play right back, especially later in the game.”

What Eckersley wants most is a chance to rewrite the early stages of the script. Manager Paul Mariner says seven of his players are of a quality to thrive in the MLS and there is no doubt Eckersley is one of them. That makes Mariner’s end of season assertion that “we’ve known for some time what we need and we know where we’re going to get them” of comfort to Eckersley.

It’s no secret the Reds were hamstrung when they could only manage their first win 10 league games into the season.

“It’s going to be a challenge to get a good start and get our confidence up,” he said. “Our confidence was slightly lacking at the beginning of the season and that affected us throughout. “

Having played for Ferguson, Eckersley has earned a say on the quality of his manager.  

“He’s great,” said Eckersley of Mariner. “He’s always buzzing about. You feed off it. It’s been a struggle coming halfway through but once he has a pre-season hopefully I think we can get off to a flying start.”