Monday, January 08, 2007


Don’t Give Up Your Day Job

With Ricki Herbert overseeing a rapid improvement in the New Zealand Knights, and Walter Smith, Scotland’s manager, apparently in line for the vacant Glasgow Rangers gig, now is perhaps a good time to examine the phenomenon of the part-time international manager.

International football itself continues to be marginalized in the post-Bosman era, and the Abdelmajid Oulmers case, if we are to believe some of the more alarmist predictions, threatens its very existence.

Does national team management really need to be a full-time position?

A national coach’s genuine “on-task” time would probably average out at only two or three months per year. The general assumption seems to be that in the meantime, he will be scouting new international hopefuls, checking on the progress of his existing roster, devouring DVDs of performances by his future international opponents, devising schedules for the training camps, etc.

Nine months’ worth of work? Hardly.

We have heard in recent days that Guus Hiddink is not entirely happy with his job in Russia, and is preparing to move elsewhere.

Maybe he is disappointed with the talent at his disposal and the facilities available to him, or perhaps he finds the climate and culture uncongenial. Perhaps the job was always intended as merely a springboard to Chelsea. But is it possible that Hiddink is simply suffering from ennui?

He managed to combine the Australian job with coaching duties at PSV most successfully. With Korea in the lead-up to the 2002 World Cup, Hiddink prevailed upon the local authorities to release the players from club duties several months out from the tournament, and he was able to work with them on virtually a day-to-day basis. They were not short of match practice, either, getting through a solid schedule of friendlies prior to the event, in which they performed so well.

In other words, it was about as close as you could get to club management.

Ricki Herbert could surely combine his international duties with the New Zealand Knights job in the longer term. The A-League, after all, is still an extremely brief league competition by world standards, and New Zealand’s opportunities for serious international matches are circumscribed by their continued presence in the ridiculous Oceania confederation.

Conflicts of interest may crop up at times, and this is perhaps the reason why the part-time phenomenon is not all that widespread in the football world. But Herbert would surely find more convergences than conflicts of interest as the coach of the A-League’s only New Zealand side.

It's difficult to think of a cushier number than a national team manager, other than that of ex-national team manager: SGE is still on £13,000 a week as his contract is yet to expire.

I think Australia can get away with a part-time manager until the next world cup. Hopefully by then, the A-League and teams involvement in Asia will be promoting player standards that mean that a full-timer needs to be racking up the frequent flyer miles between Asia and Europe.

As for Hiddink, it seems a certainty that Mourinho is finished, and that either Guus or Dider Deschamps (ex-Chelsea loafer) are gleams in Roman's eye.
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