Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Sydney FC - The Report Card, Part 4
So, the next under the spotlight:
Coach: Terry Butcher
My thoughts on the early part of the season, and Butcher's role in the successes and failures therein, can be found here.
There's little I feel inclined to alter in that assessment. His use of Alex Brosque in a lone striker role as the season drew to a close was puzzling and far from ideal, but Butcher appeared to be of the "fit your best players in somehow" school of coaching.
A few of the things he tried late in the season paid off, more or less. Ruben Zadkovich's run at right-back was a qualified success, until his horror evening in Newcastle. The completely unexpected switch to a back three against Queensland did the trick in the end, although Sydney were caught out on the flanks (the left in particular) many times in the course of the evening.
The team shape upon which Butcher settled for so long was fairly good. Neither Ufuk Talay nor Terry McFlynn were really up to the sole anchor role (how Sydney would have killed for a Seo or a Colosimo), but the two did well in concert.
Yet there was no reason for him to persist with David Carney on the right when it was so obviously an inappropriate deployment. Nor, ultimately, did the Brosque experiment really work, despite his late-season goals.
Then there were the two Achilles' heels of Sydney's season: fitness and discipline. The loss of momentum in the second half was an endless source of frustration for the fans, particularly towards the latter half of the season; it was clear that something wasn't quite right on the training ground.
And the cards piled up. Ultimately, Butcher must take some responsibility for that.
In that grim, desperate second half in Newcastle, Butcher, in my view, finally dropped his bundle. David Carney was left to thrash around helplessly in a lone striker role for far too long; the switch to a back three was, on this occasion, a disaster; and then there were the substitutions.
With Sydney clearly impotent in midfield, the only chance of a goal was likely to come from a set-piece. Butcher, therefore, saw fit to jettison both Sydney's set-piece taker in Talay, and the man most likely to exploit a well-flighted free kick in Mark Rudan.
And it is this latter substitution that has probably lost Butcher the dressing-room for good. It's hardly a secret that there were plenty of disgruntled players even before February 2; with his captain off-side, and his team pointedly snubbed after the final whistle in favour of the travelling Cove, it's hard to see how Butcher will regain the players' respect.
The pressure on Butcher has, admittedly, been huge. He has had to deal with the expectations of a champion club (there are some pundits who really need to acquaint themselves with the concept of a salary cap, incidentally), a crippling run of injuries, a three-point deduction, regular off-field dramas, the pig-ignorant criticism of Craig Foster, and the arrogance of Anthony La Paglia.
What we saw at Energy Australia Stadium was simply a release of the valves, in my opinion. It wasn't pretty.
Until then, Butcher had managed to maintain a sense of humour and a reasonably level-headed demeanour; he had clearly made an effort to tone down his early-season touchline rants, much to the fans' approval. And he hardly deserves to be judged solely on the basis of some poor decisions on one inordinately difficult night.
It was a turbulent, turbulent season, and Butcher coped as best he could.
But in the end, he has won more enemies than friends among his players - and it has probably made his position untenable.
Sydney's midfield structure only leant itself to one forward and in the end it was the worst of three evils. As I just wrote on my end-of-season report I'm surprised how well Brosquinho did up front on his own all things considered.
Oh and Butcher? A sad day for football in this country when a gang of ex-NSL "stars" can band together and remove a man whose coaching (I'm not mentioning playing) record is far beyond anything they will accomplish.
When TB goes back to the UK and tells of what he faced people's faces will drop that a man could be sacked after "all of that"...
Brookie did not get the game time his skill justified. But he should be playing for NZ.
Players, and now coaches (see Gary Von E's comments on being shortlisted for Sydney), are attracted like moths to the top side. Look at the way they jumped around in the old NSL - one year playing in the final for one side - the next in the final for another side. But it is better for the fans if they are spread around.