12 January 2013

Round and round she goes

By Enrico Scirocco - Sportswriter

MUSICAL chairs? hot potato? pin the tail on the donkey? seems it's a bunch of party games down at BMO these days, and Monday's latest was the firing of Paul Mariner and Bob de Klerk, and the rumoured, but pretty much official appointment of former New Zealand international and 'current' Queen Park Rangers defender, Ryan Nelsen, on *Tuesday.

And yes, I mean 'current', because he still has 'obligations' for QPR and will continue playing for them. He will miss the MLS Superdraft and who knows how many games.

Now I don't really know about the merits of Nelsen's appointment as the eighth coach of Toronto FC. I have no idea if he can coach and I'm not really sure if anyone else does either (including himself).  

I also don't really care for Paul Mariner either for him staying or being fired. A coach's job is to win or at least field a competitive team with the players he's got.

I don't think anyone can argue that even the best coach in the world could have done much more with the roster TFC had last year, considering all their injuries.

A coach's job is not to take chicken shit and turn it into chicken salad.

My biggest problem is the whole craziness that is going on with TFC. This is a surprise to no one that follows the team but these series of events are indefensible for a 'professional' organization.

This team just continues to invent ways to make themselves look bad. This is like me playing in a men's league on the weekends and coaching a kids team during the week.

Right, wrong, or indifferent, Aron Winter was fired back in June 2012. You can argue if this was the right move or not, but six months ago, the 'soccer people' at **MLSE thought this was the right move.

Winter had a direction for this team and management didn't like the direction things were going in.


They made their move. At some point, after the firing of Winter, the top brass at TFC must have known they had a void of soccer leadership in the front office and it was probably at this time they decided they would be searching for a new president.  

Someone that would be given the keys to the team, to shape in their mould. Someone who would bring in 'their guy' to coach the team in the style they wanted this team to play.

So my question: why hire Mariner as your permanent coach? Why not just add 'interim' to his title, and make fans understand it was a temporary solution to a bigger overall problem.

Why, when Kevin Payne was hired as president of the club, did he confirm Mariner as the coach? Why did they have to wait six weeks to make a move and let Mariner go?

To me, Payne has now made a significant move, and played a trump card. He had a coach that he could have ridden for a year while he makes the roster moves he feels he needs to make.

I don't think there was a lineup of teams for Nelsen, who Payne knows from their time together at DC United, and he couldn’t have felt pressure to hire him now.

I asked Sportsnet journalist John Molinaro (here), and he put the question out there himself (here), to an interesting and valid set of responses.

Heck, he could have brought him in as a player for a year (or half year), and then moved him in to the coaches' roll next season. I mean, TFC's best defender may now just be the 'coach' of this team.

Except he's not defending for us - or coaching

Nelsen's announcement comes after he played in QPR's 1-1 tie with West Bromwich on Sunday and is given a ringing endorsement from his 'current' coach Harry Redknapp.

The boss said: ''Ryan is very important to us, a fantastic leader and a top player. He's been offered the chance of a job in America and there's every chance he might go.  

''He wants to be a manager and he has a chance to manage a club. That's where he's coming from.  

''He's one of the best pros I have ever met in my life. A massive part of your team. To lose him would be a massive blow for us.''

But continuing to play? - sorry, I just can't get over that. As my friend, Dave B says: ''Day one and already a lack of commitment. I would rather he comes in as a player-manager, bring an experienced coach with MLS experience and go from there.  

''He should be at the club in January, watching tape from last season, talking to the coaching staff and planning targets for the draft (TFC has first and third picks).

''The season starts in two months. Could you imagine any other club hiring a manager but allowing him to play for another club?!''

Well, Dave, they did bring him in to be a player-coach. He's just not doing either for us at the moment. The club really does find new ways to invent craziness.

The one thing this team needed was stability. An experienced man to coach this team. I find TFC's streak of hiring first time coaches astounding.  


The last coach they hired that had any kind of senior team experience, and the last with MLS experience, was Preki in 2009 - yes, 2009! Funny enough, he's also the last coach to not have a losing record as a TFC coach (#bringbackPreki!).

Here's hoping Nelsen can be the next winning coach of TFC, and can deal with all the party games that are going on down at BMO.  

Let's hope he can always find a chair, pass the potato in time, and doesn't get stuck being the jackass.

* This post was originally written Monday evening (7 Jan 2013) after Paul Mariner was fired, and prior to the official announcement of Ryan Nelsen being hired.

I've tried to update this post based on the actual announcements made Tuesday and tried make the most sense of this post, but this is TFC we're talking about here - it's not supposed to make sense.

** PS - I guess MLSE decided that had seen enough of the criticism of Toronto FC and decided to bury it by firing Brian Burke.

Upon hearing of Burke's dismissal, Sonja immediately suggested he take up Nelsen's spot until the EPL season is over. Given the way this organization is run that would not surprise me in the least.

Enrico's (@_EnricoS) article originally appeared on Sonja Missio's (@sonjamissio) site 90 Minutes of Hopp

Location: Toronto, Canada

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