Irwin's Gillette visit spawns memories for Nicol, Revolution
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The world-renowned trophy gleamed from its perch off to the side of the training field as the New England Revolution went through their paces on Tuesday morning.
Several players stopped to inspect the most cherished piece of domestic silverware in the English game on their way to the locker room once the session ended, but Revolution coach Steve Nicol focused on the traditional adornments dangling from its handles.
“If it was a different color of ribbons, it'd be alright,” Nicol told MLSsoccer.com. “Red and black together? It's not my favorite.”
For a Liverpool man who prefers red and white on his hardware, the decorative flourishes reinforce the painful fact that Manchester United have lifted the Barclays Premier League trophy yet again and can show it off wherever they please.
Former United fullback Denis Irwin brought the recently acquired trophy to Revs training as part of a goodwill tour through the Boston area prior to the friendly scheduled between the two sides on July 13 at Gillette Stadium as part of the World Football Challenge.
Nicol placed his ornamental preferences to one side to engage in a lengthy and pleasant conversation with his former adversary after the Revs wrapped up their practice. Irwin said he enjoyed the opportunity to renew acquaintances with the former Scottish international defender.
“He's won plenty of championships for Liverpool,” Irwin said. “They had a fantastic team, won five times in the ‘70s and ‘80s. He was very much a part of that. Fortunately enough, we've taken over in the ‘90s and the 2000s. It's been a good 20 years for us. But his five league titles is a fantastic achievement as well. It's good to catch up with him. I haven't seen him for a long time.”
The passage of a few years can make people forget things about opponents and stars alike, but Revs defender A.J. Soares said he remembers Irwin well from the days when he used to watch a VHS tape of highlights from United's famous treble-winning season in 1999.
“He [was] just your classic [fullback],” Soares said. “He never made a mistake. It's never too fancy. He was a good leader. Those are the kind of guys — and you appreciate them when you have them on your team — that people probably don't realize how good they are.”
Irwin's playing days have long since ended, but he continues to serve Man. United as a legend and as a presenter on MUTV, the club's television channel.
As he pondered the American duties facing United this summer during their five-match tour of the United States, Irwin said he believes the first-team squad — with a couple of new additions by that point, perhaps — will enjoy celebrating its Premier League title and preparing for the new campaign in Boston next month.
“We were just looking at the facilities,” Irwin said. “It's a fantastic stadium. I think the lads will enjoy coming here. Hopefully, we'll have a big crowd as well because we've had a great season.”