Khano Smith remembers much loved Paul Mariner
Khano Smith has paid a moving tribute to late coach Paul Mariner who had a profound influence on both his career and life in general.
Mariner, the former Ipswich Town, Arsenal and England striker, died last Friday at age 68 from brain cancer.
Smith had the opportunity to join forces with the former star player during a five-year stint at Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution, where Mariner worked as an assistant coach.
“As the coach, he was so passionate and so willing to share his experience with us,” Smith recalled. “He always wanted the best for us as a team and we were so successful, and he was a huge part of that.
“Him and Steve [Nicol, a fellow assistant coach] were the best of friends during our time together in New England, so I’m sure he is hurting as well.
“It was a joy to play for them. They made training fun; it was good banter and just a really good culture and environment to be in. It is one that really shaped my life and career and Paul is a huge piece of that.”
Mariner played for several clubs during his heyday, but is perhaps best remembered for his prolific stint at Ipswich, where he scored 139 goals in 339 appearances for the club and helped them to win the FA Cup in 1978 and the Uefa Cup in 1981.
He also scored 13 goals in 35 appearances for England, whom he represented at the 1980 European Championship and in the 1982 World Cup.
“Paul the player had an outstanding career playing across multiple clubs in England and playing for England itself, but you would never know that based off how humble he was and how he caring he was,” Smith added. “How selfless and how engaged he would be in conversations with people, with strangers, with players, with anyone. He just always had time for everyone and was never too big to talk to anyone.
“My personal relationship with him was amazing. For some reason I think because I went to New England as an attacker, he probably took special interest in me.
“My bond with Paul was immediate. He just was always there looking for me, encouraging me, trying to get the best out of me, pushing me to be the best that I could be and I learnt so much from him.”
Smith was spotted by Mariner and former Liverpool great Nicol during the Revolution’s preseason tour to the island in 2005.
The former Bermuda striker had two stints with the club during which they reached successive MLS Cup finals, losing both to Houston Dynamo.
Smith was released by New England in 2010 while Mariner also severed ties to become the director of player development and coach of the club’s MLS rival Toronto FC, where local pair Reggie Lambe and Freddy Hall were among the players he recruited.
“After a while he ended up leaving and I left and we went our separate ways,” said Smith, who scored eight goals in 100 appearances for the Revolution. “But we reconnected about three years ago in Orlando when I saw him and stayed in touch.
“It was great to get with him, have a few drinks, talk and reminisce and that was the last time I saw him.”
Smith added: “Paul the person is just so humble and he gave so much time to everyone. He would do anything for any one of us as players.
“Obviously a father and a husband and I’m sure his family love him and miss him. I met both of his sons and my thoughts and prayers are with them and his family.
“All in all a great guy and he’ll be dearly missed.”