‘Work we still have to do’: Bobby Smyrniotis commits to Forge FC project with contract extension

This story was originally published May 1, 2023, but was updated on May 4.

The most successful coach in the Canadian Premier League is staying put.

Forge FC announced Monday that Bobby Smyrniotis has signed a new deal with the club for the next four years, and that his role has been expanded to include the title of sporting director in addition to his duties as head coach. Smyrniotis has been coach and technical director since Forge’s inception in 2018, and he’s led the Hamilton side to four straight CPL Finals and three championships — in 2019, 2020, and 2022.

Smyrniotis’ responsibilities at Forge have been expanded after the departure of his brother and the club’s previous director of football, Costa Smyrniotis, to the league’s head office as Executive Vice President, Soccer.

Under Bobby Smyrniotis’ reign as Forge gaffer, the club has been incredibly successful on the pitch. In 131 matches under his tenure, Forge have 68 wins, 25 draws and 37 losses in all competitions, scoring 208 goals in the process, and they have never finished worse than second place in a full CPL season.

Not only have Forge dominated the CPL’s list of trophy winners, they’ve also established an international reputation for themselves under Smyrniotis. The club has competed in the Concacaf League three times — advancing as far as the semifinal in 2021 — and in February 2022 they became the first CPL team to play in the Concacaf Champions League, which they did in a close-fought tie against Liga MX side Cruz Azul.

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For Smyrniotis, though, there’s plenty of unfinished business, which is why he chose to strengthen his commitment to the club.

“When you look at this club, continuity is something that’s been at the core of everything going on,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success as a club on the field; we have a lot of work that we still have to do. On the field we’ve set the standard but there’s a lot of different projects even off the field in the community that we’re working with. As a coach I think you’ve got everything you need in this league to succeed, so it’s about trying trying to chase something a little bit more and putting some more challenges on ourselves as a staff.

“It’s not normal for coaches to be around clubs for so long; here we’re able to work in a vision that I set forth back in 2019 and we want to just keep on continuing that for as long as that’s possible.”

Smyrniotis added that he’s had the opportunity in the CPL to taste pretty much everything the professional game has to offer in this country — from the domestic league to the cup to continental competition. Now, though, the challenge becomes taking it to the next level, and continuing to embed Forge FC in the Hamilton community.

He pointed, for instance, to Forge’s new partnership with Hamilton United, as well as their affiliation with Sigma FC as examples of how the pro side can have an impact in the local area.

“We wanted to increase our footprint in the local soccer community because this is a massive city,” he added. “This is a sports-crazy city and we need to make sure we’re part of the game at all levels.”

(Photo: Audrey Magny/CPL)

Smyrniotis, 44, has been a finalist for the CPL’s Coach of the Year award in all four previous seasons, but has yet to win it despite his three North Star Shields with Forge — though he certainly wouldn’t trade any of his championships for an individual accolade.

The native of Scarborough, Ontario has an extensive résumé from before his time in the CPL too, having helped establish Sigma FC in Mississauga — one of Canada’s best producers of talent, with Canadian national team stars like Cyle Larin, Richie Laryea and Tajon Buchanan all spending time with the League1 Ontario club, not to mention 13 members of Forge’s current CPL squad. Smyrniotis has also spent time developing players in the academy of Greek powerhouse Olympiacos, as well as running camps within the AFC Ajax organization.

“Bobby has established himself as one of the brightest tactical minds in Concacaf soccer over the last four years and what he has accomplished in the CPL since its inception has been phenomenal,” said Hamilton Sports Group Managing Partner & CEO Scott Mitchell in a statement. “We are thrilled to announce this contract extension and a well-deserved promotion as sporting director to accompany his head coaching title.”

Forge are undefeated through three CPL matches to start 2023, having beaten Pacific FC in Langford on Sunday to improve to 2-1-0 as they strive to win a fourth championship and return to the Concacaf Champions League in 2024.

‘Forge is made up of people that have belonged to Forge’: Smith, Demers promotions also key to club growth

In addition to Smyrniotis’ extension and promotion, Forge announced several other off-field moves this week, naming Jelani Smith the club’s director of soccer operations and Nicole Demers their vice president of business operations.

To Smyrniotis, those announcements are just as important to establishing what he identifies as the culture he wants to help build at Forge. Both Smith and Demers have been around the organization for years, and to have them continue growing within it will only help push the club forward.

“That’s what you want to be able to see within a sports organization, that there’s organic growth from within,” Smyrniotis explained.

“I think that’s one thing, it’s a long-term vision. I don’t know if I’ll be here to see it out, maybe it’ll take a few more years than I’ve got, but in the future Forge is made up of people that have belonged to Forge. When you look at the clubs that show a massive history in not only success but in development — clubs like Ajax, Genk in Belgium, you name it, it’s full of people who have been part of the club and have a love and affinity for the organization.”

A number of former CPL players have, in recent months, taken off-field positions at their clubs after retiring, from Atlético Ottawa team manager Drew Beckie to Pacific FC manager of football and player development Jamar Dixon, among many others. Forge, of course, have former defender David Edgar working as an assistant coach. Now, that same sort of progression is extending to people who have grown along with their clubs in front-office positions.