This afternoon, after a decade together, Steve Nicol and the New England Revolution parted ways, “by mutual consent,” or some such language. My first inclination was to excoriate the organization for failing to re-sign a man who has been the epitome of the “good servant” to the club, and let’s face it, there’s a lot of that going on in my area of the country at the moment! However, upon further consideration, I am glad that this has happened.
When it became clear two or three seasons ago that Coach Nicol wasn’t going to be able to turn sow’s ears into silk purses forever, management failed him. Instead of trying to rebuild the club by systematically grooming new players and making sound purchases where foreign players were concerned, the Krafts decided to try to make it on the cheap. While they were making sure that the New England Patriots were competitive season-in-and-season-out by spending well, wisely, and often during the same period, the Revolution were forced to get buy with inexperienced college players (some of whom “panned” out it must be said), cast offs from other MLS clubs, and has-been foreign players while young and talented players left the club in a steady stream- Dempsey, Parkhurst, Lawrentowicz, Dorman, Noonan, etc..
Steve Nicol deserved better than this as both a man and a coach. As all of this was happening Nicol remained ever the stoic Scot, never criticizing the club’s management in public, always taking the blame when the club underperformed, and always redirecting the praise to his players and coaching staff when the club did well. Maybe he spent all of his free time privately complaining to his friends and family about they way the organization was handling the club– but I doubt it. Nor do I think that the fall out of his parting ways with the club will play out in the press the same way the recent debacle at Fenway has.
So why am I glad that this has happened? First, because I have no doubt that Steve Nicol will have another coaching job as soon as he wants one. Maybe it will be with an MLS club, maybe it will be with a club overseas- maybe he’ll end up coaching Scotland when Craig Levein’s time is up. Whatever the case, if he’s given the talent you can be sure that he’ll get more out of that talent than almost any other coach out there. The second reason I’m glad that this happened is that I believe it will make it clear to the Revolution just how much Nicol was doing for the club- sometimes it’s hard to appreciate what you have until it is gone. All of this leaves only one question:
What now, Mike Burns?