FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – On Tuesday morning the New England Revolution conducted its first training session in almost 10 years without Steve Nicol at the helm.
Under the direction of assistant coaches Stephen Myles and Peter Fuller and goalkeepers coach Remi Roy, the Revs took the field for the first of nine scheduled postseason workouts at Gillette Stadium approximately 18 hours after it was announced that Nicol and the club had mutually parted ways following 10 seasons. Nicol’s decade-long term in New England made him the longest-tenured head coach in Major League Soccer history, as the Scotsman coached 299 consecutive regular-season games from 2002-11.
During his tenure, Nicol led the Revs to the only two cup championships in club history – the 2007 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and SuperLiga 2008 – and guided the Revolution to four MLS Cup championship games in 2002 and 2005-07. The Liverpool legend racked up a career record of 112-108-81 with New England and currently ranks fourth in league history in overall wins.
Although a recent dip in form saw the Revs miss out on the playoffs the past two years after eight successive appearances in the postseason, Nicol unsurprisingly leaves Foxborough in high esteem.
“Personally, Stevie’s been great for me,” said Chris Tierney, who was drafted by Nicol in the first round of the 2008 MLS Supplemental Draft. “He gave me a shot to be in this league and do what it was always my dream to do. I’ll be forever grateful for the chance that he gave me and the things that he taught me. He was a great guy in terms of soccer, but even a more solid person just in general.”
“He had tons of confidence (in me) and gave me my first opportunity to play professionally,” echoed Darrius Barnes, who was Nicol’s third round pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. “He’s the ultimate players coach. He’s someone you want to play for and he has a good time with you. He’s not one who’s hardnosed 100 percent of the time, but he knows how to manage his players well.”
Not one player on the Revolution’s current roster has played in Foxborough under any head coach except Nicol, so the news of his departure predictably caught some players off guard, even after the frustration of a five-win season left the Revs at the bottom of the league standings along with the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps.
“When it actually hits, when you actually hear that news, it’s kind of stunning,” said Barnes. “Of course at the tail end of the season you hear rumors swirling around the locker room and all over the media about things that could happen, but when it actually happens, it kind of hits you hard.”
With the head coaching position currently vacant, the Revolution’s primary focus now shifts to finding a new leader to direct the charge into 2012 and beyond. In the meantime, the players will continue to train under the assistant coaches and prepare to push forward in a new direction in the coming months.
“You just try to get on with it, be a professional and do what you’re asked to do,” Tierney said of the players’ approach during this period of transition. “We’ll obviously leave the selection of the next coach to our front office and hopefully we can get it taken care of sooner rather than later so we can get on with things.”