Aron Winter fired back at his former colleagues in an interview with Canadian outlet Sportsnet on Wednesday, one day after team brass placed much of the blame of Toronto FC’s worst season yet on the deposed former head coach.
Winter parted ways with the club and was replaced by director of soccer operations Paul Mariner in early June after posting just one win in 10 games in his second season, but Mariner and director of team and player operations Paul Cochrane told the Toronto media on Tuesday that the former Dutch international effectively left the team a mess they simply couldn’t clean up in time to save the season.
Toronto FC finished with a 5-21-8 record, worst in MLS this year and the worst in the franchise’s six-year history.
"It was ultimately Aron's decision because he was at the top of the pyramid," Cochrane told sportsnet.ca on Thursday. "We would make recommendations, we would present him with [possible MLS trades] or players we could acquire [from outside MLS]. He would have his own sources and he would decide whether to take that information, whether to go forward with it, whether to ignore, but it was ultimately his decision.”
Said Mariner: "You can only give your input inside the four walls at BMO, and that's what we did, and you can see what happened."
Winter, however, told Sportsnet.ca that a both Mariner and Cochrane both played a much larger role in personnel decisions than they led on with the media this week, and even alleged that they at times went behind Winter’s back to ownership when it came to some moves.
"I made mistakes and I'm not perfect,” Winter told Sportsnet.ca. “But I don't like how those guys have blamed me for everything. For me, that's not right. They made mistakes, too."
Winter also claimed that Mariner and Cochrane undermined his authority by going to Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, the club's owner, while he was attending to family affairs in his native Netherlands.
"They went behind my back to say bad things about me that weren't true, saying all kinds of [expletive] about me," Winter told sportsnet.ca.
Winter also added that while he’s kept tabs on the Reds – who finished the season on a 14-game winless streak – but that he doesn’t believe the team will turn around under its current leadership.
Winter has kept close tabs on TFC since he left town, and he said he's not convinced Mariner and Cochrane can turn Toronto FC around after a season with a 5-21-8 record.
"If they think they're so great, let's see them do it. But I don't think they're good enough. They don't have quality," Winter said. “As I said, those guys aren't good enough. I don't think they can do good things for the club.”
Mariner, for his part, said that he expects to be in charge of the team in 2013, and when asked by a reporter why he should return, insisted: "Because I'm very good at what I do."
He went on to point to the July 14 loss of striker Danny Koevermans as a key tipping point for the Reds, who won four of 10 games after Mariner took over and before Koevermans went down with a torn ACL.
"When Koevermans went down, it really hurt us," said Mariner, who also admitted he thinks the team has only seven proven MLS-level starters on the roster. "As they say in football, you're only as good as the deepest member of your squad, and we had too many fringe players asked to play too many games.
"Learning on the job is fine and dandy but when you're not up to it like some of the lads didn't have the physical capability and the mental capability then you're going to get torn down and we were torn down."