By: Mike Newell
Toronto Football Club officially entered a new chapter today as former Dutch international and Ajax assistant Aron Winter was introduced as the team’s new Head Coach and Technical Director. Joining Winter is former New England Revolution assistant Paul Mariner in the Director of Player Development role, and Bob de Klerk as first team assistant, de Klerk was an assistant and former youth team coach at Ajax for the past 9 years.
Winter will be the MLS club’s 6th manager in four years (Including interim managers). Winter who has played in 3 World Cups and 4 European Championships was part of the search that was headed up by German legend Jurgen Klinsmann’s company Soccer Solutions. The California based company was brought in by TFC owners Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) to help reshape the club after a turmoil filled 2009 campaign. In his November press conference Klinsmann stressed that the club needed to find a style of play that would define the club and a philosophy that would help develop players within the academy.
After months of meetings and discussion it became clear that TFC settled upon the Dutch system of total football. The hiring of Winter and de Klerk both schooled in the Ajax system is the club’s first step in implementing the Dutch style. Although he has no experience at the head of a club, Aron Winter has spent the last 5 years as an Ajax first team assistant. He also brings over 400 club caps at Ajax, Lazio and Inter Milan and 84 Dutch international caps of experience to a team that sorely needs experienced football men in charge of team affairs.
At today’s press conference Winter stated his desire to bring attractive football to BMO Field.
“People are aware of the Dutch playing total football. We want to play that style for Toronto but it will take time” Winter went on to say “ We have goals in the meantime for next year-the playoff are our goal”.
Winter will be walking to a difficult situation with a little over a month left before the Reds first friendly, the club need to sign and replace a number of players who were released by the club. Also he will be expected to help deliver the team to its first playoff berth in club history.
Helping him do this will be Paul Mariner who was given the title of Director of Player Development. He will be in charge of all player movement including signings, reserve players and academy players. Mariner is returning to the MLS after 15 months as Plymouth Argyle manager in England. He spent the previous spent 6 years as first team assistant to Steve Nicol at New England where he helped the club to 3 straight MLS Cup finals and a playoff berth every year. After being originally rumored to be taking the head coaching position, he lands into the role he says suits him the best right now. Winter made it clear that Mariner will be very important in his early stages of forming the first team saying “I will use Paul a lot in the early stages as I get use to how things work here”.
Mariner also did his best to downplay the expectations of the jaded TFC supporters “I know Toronto fans have been told to ‘watch this spot’ for several years. Can we turn it around right away? The intelligent football answer is no, we can’t. There are no Guarantees”. However he remained confident that the right people were in place to make things a success at the club for the long term.
In the end the long term plan is what the club is trying to instill in all aspects of the operation. Preliminary reactions from fans seem to be mainly one of guarded optimism. Most supporters groups see the hiring as a positive step especially for the academy and development of youth players at the club. The Dutch system has a major emphasis on developing the skills of young players in order to fit into the total football system.
The first order of business for the new management team is to watch the MLS Superdraft combine camp starting this weekend. The club has no first round draft picks, but it is still a chance for Winter and de Klerk to scout talent. After that the new manager plans to sit down with some of his players to discuss the new path for the team.
The new era begins.