Mariner tries to turn around Toronto's fortunes after bad year
When Paul Mariner returned to Plymouth Argyle as head coach in October 2009, he did so as a Home Park hero.
The playing feats back in the 1970s on behalf of the Pilgrims by the centre-forward who went on to play for Ipswich Town, Arsenal and England made sure of that. By the time Mariner left Argyle again, though, his reputation had taken a knock or two.
He is not the first and he will not be the last international footballer of distinction to struggle to reach the same standards when it comes to taking charge of a team. After taking the helm at Plymouth in place of Paul Sturrock in December 2009, Mariner was unable to prevent the Pilgrims sliding out of the Championship in April 2010.
He stuck around as a somewhat under-used member of manager Peter Reid's coaching team at Argyle until December 2010, when his second spell on the staff at Home Park came to an end.
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Mariner duly returned to the football environment in which he had forged a long and sound career as an assistant head coach: Major League Soccer. The former New England Revolution number two joined Toronto FC in January 2011 as their director of player development.
The job put him in control of player recruitment at the Canadian club, but it was not long before he found himself in charge of first-team coaching and team selection. Former Holland international Aron Winter, who had been hired as head coach when Mariner had been given his post, was removed from his role in June this year, after Toronto had started the 2012 MLS season with nine defeats in a row – the worst opening sequence in the league's history.
Mariner was given the reins, but did not enjoy a great deal of success in what was left of the season. Toronto finished in last place in the Eastern Conference of MLS, a dozen points adrift of the Revolution, who were next to bottom in the final standings when the league came to an end last month.
It was not a record which made Mariner proud or happy. He described the effect his team's record had on him to the Globe and Mail newspaper. "I'm quite a sociable person, but I just go back to my apartment downtown," he said.
"I don't really go out much because, as I've said before, I want to walk around the town with my head held high. I don't feel as though I can do that because I hate getting beat. I'm not used to getting beat."
Since the end of the MLS season, Mariner has been busy planning for next year's campaign at Toronto. He headed back to Europe on an extended scouting mission. "As far as I'm concerned, my new season starts now," he said after his team's final game.
As well as watching players in England, Scandinavia and Cyprus, Mariner made time to have lunch in London last week with Peter Reid and Alan Brazil, his former Ipswich team-mate, who, like Reid, is employed by talkSPORT as a radio presenter.
One of the players who did impress Mariner at Toronto in the 2012 MLS season was English full-back Richard Eckersley, who played for Argyle under Mariner when he was borrowed from Burnley near the end of the 2009-10 season.
Eckersley had to play out of position as a centre-half for Toronto, due to injuries to regular starters, but he was not looking for excuses when he assessed the season.
Asked by the media to review Toronto's campaign, he said: "I'll be thinking of it throughout the off-season. I think every player in here should review the season personally, as well, because, as a team, it wasn't good enough."
Bermuda international goalkeeper Freddy Hall, who had a trial at Argyle in the summer of 2010, is also on Toronto's books.