TORONTO – Though the Toronto FC squad will be familiar with new head coach Paul Mariner – who has been with the club as director of player development for a year-and-a-half – one player in particular will be particularly familiar with Mariner's coaching style.
Defender Richard Eckersley previously played for Mariner in 2010 at Plymouth Argyle in the English Championship, on a three-month loan from then-Premier League outfit Burnley.
It is safe to say, then, that Eckersley knows him better than any of the players on the roster.
“I’ve known him for three or four years now,” Eckersley said. “He was the main reason I came here.”
Mariner joined Toronto FC as part of the overhaul of the technical staff that saw the recently departed Aron Winter appointed as head coach. In April of last year, a loan deal with Burnley was worked out that brought Eckersley to Toronto. The move became permanent before this season began.
Eckersley said that the former England international will bring enthusiasm to the team in a coaching role.
“His enthusiasm on the pitch,” Eckersley said. “You can see everyone in training when he speaks everyone wants to do more and give everything for him.”
The 23-year-old fullback also agrees with the assessment that Mariner is a straight shooter.
“Yeah, exactly,” he responded. “And the door is always open so that if you have a problem then you can go and see him ... what you see is what you get. That’s important as a manager to be like that and I think he brings that to the team.”
One of the big questions surrounding the on-field situation of the team following Mariner's appointment is whether or not he will keep Winter's trademark 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 formations intact. Winter stuck to his guns in that regard, but Mariner stated after his appointment that he will use a formation that suits the strengths of his players.
When Eckersley played for Mariner at Plymouth Argyle they used a 4-4-2, but Eckersley said that more will be known as training progresses.
“Through the week, we’ll know more, I think,” he said. “I’m OK with anything."