Mariner - A Player's Coach
Dominic Kinnear, head coach of the Houston Dynamo and a longtime friend of Toronto FC head coach Paul Mariner, will tell you straight on: “the only reason Paul doesn’t jump into the game when the ball comes near him is that it’s not allowed.”
Mariner is the only coach in North American pro sports who wears shorts on the sidelines. He also keeps his heart on his sleeve.
The Reds have lost only two of the 10 games they played under Mariner (four wins, four draws and two defeats) and a team that bottomed out under Aron Winter is making waves about fetching a playoff spot. This despite a start that saw the team gain only four points in its first 12 league games.
Video: Mayflower, Sir Bobby, The Stones and more, Mike Ulmer chats with Paul Mariner.
The 59-year-old Mariner has infused the team with the kind of working-man vibe he learned from famed British manager and player Sir Bobby Robson who he played for at Plymouth Argyle.
“Very, very quickly he set me straight as soon as I signed,” Mariner said. “Nipper was his nickname for me. He said ‘Nipper what sort of player do you want to be?’ I said I want to be a top player. He said, let me tell you something: in the first division as it was in the old days you’ve got to have four good games, one really good game and one unbelievable game. There is no room for mediocrity so get after it. So I did.”
Indeed, Mariner starred for Plymouth Argyle, Ipswich Town and Arsenal. A rugged centre-forward, he scored 167 goals in 457 games and in 1981 contributed the goal that pushed England into the World Cup. Mariner scored 13 international goals in all.
“As a far as players go, he was at the top of the list,” said Kinnear.
A love for the game is a pillar of Mariner’s persona. He scoots about the practice field moving pylons, redirecting wayward shots and shouting out encouragement. He is volcanic on the sidelines during a game.
“He’s a great player’s coach,” said forward Ryan Johnson. “He knows what makes us comfortable, what makes us happy, what doesn’t make us happy. He’s got a good sense of our emotions and he operates off of that.”
“Paul took the pressure off us when he came in. He changed the system. He just made it simple for everybody.”
With his playing career on the wane, Mariner left Britain for a job as a player coach in Albany, New York and eventually ricocheted into MLS where he worked with New England Revolution's coach Steve Nicol as the Revs reached the MLS Cup Final three times with him on staff.