The Retreat of Winter…

Once seen as the new hope and a fresh start for the struggling MLS squad Aron Winter is gone as head coach of Toronto FC and will be replaced by Director of Player Development Paul Mariner who becomes the seventh head coach in the club’s six year history.

The firing comes arguably at one of the more successful stretches of Winter’s time at the helm at TFC as in May the team went 3-2-2 in all competitions picking up his second Canadian Championship and finally managing a win in MLS play after starting the season 0-0-8.  The club had shown early season promise in 2012 advancing to the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champion’s League but it was a form that the team was unable to replicate in regular season play leaving the door open for the long rumoured coaching change.

Winter, according to Tom Anselmi Executive VP of MLSE, was offered a position within the club but turned it down.

The question now can the appointment of Mariner as head coach result in significant changes in results for the club that has struggled since inception where it matters on the field?

Mariner brings significant MLS experience with him after working alongside New England Revolution Head Coach Steve Nicol from 2004-08 during which time the Revs made three consecutive appearances in the MLS Cup (2005, 2006, 2007) and also winning the 2007 U.S. Open Cup and 2008 SuperLiga title. In 2009, Mariner returned to England to join the coaching staff at Plymouth Argyle where he worked until signing with Toronto FC.

One would expect a much more pragmatic approach to things on the field from Mariner as the decision has obviously been made that we are playing for results in the here and now not later. “We have to get results, fans do not care about style, this is the sharp pointy end of football. We need to win.”

Very diplomatic if not vague in his remarks on the player’s reaction to the change Mariner certainly left the door open to interpretation, “I’m not sure what the reaction was. The players have been under a lot of pressure.”

After eighteen months the much talked about three year “Dutch” plan Winter spoke of since day one is left in shambles and although it was not said in so many words at today’s press conference the plan never really had a chance being undermined at every corner by people within his own organization.

Seemingly destined for failure right from the beginning with the ill-advised appointment of a three headed management monster of Paul Mariner, Aron Winter and Bob de Klerk just over a year ago it seemed that MLSE  set up a battle for dominance right from the start with the intent of letting the chips fall where they might and someone workers compensation attorney group, anyone rising to the top.

Looking back now it is easy perhaps to read more into the appointment activities of the club over the past couple of months and read the ebb and flow of the internal battle for control as it waged.

For a while, in particular after the appointment of fellow Dutchmen Thomas Rongen as Academy Director Winter seemed to be winning but then came the “promotion” of De Klerk to “Technical Manager” and his replacement by former player Jim Brennan as Winter’s assistant  seemingly indicating that Mariner had retaken the mantle as head decision maker.

Rumours of divisions within the management team have been rife almost since day one and stretch perhaps even further back into the short lived reigns of Preki and interim manager Nic Dasovic.