TFC's Payne explains why he replaced Mariner with Nelsen
Ryan Nelsen's introductory press conference as manager of Toronto FC featured just a single question about the man who made way for the New Zealander.
Deep into the Q&A at the media gathering at BMO Field, a press member inquired about Paul Mariner, who had been confirmed as TFC manager when Kevin Payne became the club's new president at the end of November.
"I spoke to Paul this weekend. It was really my decision," Payne confirmed. "We felt we needed to move in a different direction and we needed to change the culture around the club and the way we want to do things. We needed to send a new message to the players and the fans."
Payne said that there were no conversations to keep Mariner in a different role at the club. He was the director of player personnel before taking over for Dutchman Aron Winter when he was fired in June 2012.
"I have a great regard for Paul Mariner," continued Payne. "He’s a great friend and a guy I competed against and I wish him nothing but the best. But I felt it was best for us and ultimately best for him to part ways. He’s free to seek other opportunities and we’re free to go forward with a new regime."
The club replaced the experienced 59-year-old Mariner with an inexperienced 35-year-old Ryan Nelsen, who played for Payne at D.C. United from 2001 to 2005. Nelsen admitted that he does not hold a single coaching badge or license.
That did not prevent Payne from making the hire.
"Ryan has better leadership qualities than any athlete I’ve ever been around and I always thought that Ryan would always wind up becoming an outstanding coach someday," he said. "I’m thrilled he's joining Toronto FC and I think he’s exactly what the club needs to live up to the supporters that it has and to the city that it plays in."
Payne revealed that he did not reach out to any other candidates after he learned that Nelsen was ready to move into coaching after fulfilling his playing commitments at Queens Park Rangers in the English Premier League.
Nelsen's new Toronto FC assistant, Fran O'Leary, will be assuming the coaching responsibilities with the support of the rest of the Toronto FC technical staff while Nelsen completes his obligations with QPR.
Although he didn't delve into playing styles or systems, Nelsen made a promise that was not too dissimilar to the words uttered by his predecessor, Mariner, when he took over.
"For me, TFC is a shining light in terms of passion and loyalty that the fans have and how the club is run," Nelsen said at Tuesday's press conference. "What the fans can know is that the team I put out will match that and some. We’ll make TFC, my team, a very hard team, a very combative team that will never give up and never fall over for any team. That’s the standard and the base that you go from."