Friday, March 09, 2007


True Local

Suddenly, the media has gone all glowingly positive on Sydney FC, and on their new manager in particular. Thankfully, Branko Culina is experienced enough not to get carried away with things (he has managed Sydney Olympic in the past, after all, and is therefore used to wild mood swings), but the usual fourth estate suspects are lapping up the recent air of optimism.

Michael Cockerill's piece in this morning's SMH was so fluffy it almost belonged in a patisserie:

The banter is back. The smiles are back. Good luck, and good fun. It's a winning combination...

In the course of Cockerill's exuberant tribute to the new order, however, there was a revealing comment from Peter Turnbull, Sydney FC's gregarious part-owner:

Peter Turnbull, proudly wearing his Sydney FC scarf as he clutched a celebratory beer, offered a simple message: "We don't ever need to go overseas for a coach again."

After a wild ride with Pierre Littbarski and then Butcher, Culina's familiarity with his players and his understanding of their needs and their beliefs has made a telling difference. "The foreign coaches need too long to get up to speed," Turnbull says.

Indeed. I could not agree more.

It should be mentioned, however, that Turnbull was well known as Terry Butcher's knight in shining armour on the Sydney FC board during the season just gone, something of which Cockerill should perhaps have made his readers aware.

You would have thought that at the end of the 2005/06 season, Sydney FC's stewards had learned their lesson. It is easy to romanticise the Littbarski era (and many have done so), given the eventual grand final success; the plain truth is that Littbarski took a long, long time to adapt to the players and the culture, that the dressing-room was divided during much of his reign, and that Sydney played much dire football in the A-League's first season.

Yet the board didn't learn their lesson. With Terry Butcher, it was largely a case of same old, same old, with a few extra injuries and unnecessary suspensions thrown in for good measure.

Even now, names such as Arie Haan and Steve Bruce have cropped up with regard to the Sydney coaching position. Characters with no experience in the Australian game, no familiarity with the culture or the players. One hopes that these were simply frivolous rumours.

So far, the Sydney board has been careful not to commit themselves publicly to the retention of Culina after the ACL.

They would be fools not to retain him, success in the ACL or not.

I was delighted when I heard Branko was to be Sydney coach -- and a little put out that the club's management decided that Branko's role in the ACL would be just an audition for HAL season three.

EVERYONE hopes he does well in the ACL: himself obviously (and I'm delighted he really wants the job for the next season proper), the fans, management, and presumably the players. But remember how impressed we all were in the last pre-season with how the team was playing under Butcher.. I've got a little theory sneaking into my mind that when a new coach first starts with the team, the team plays the way -they- want to play and it takes a half-dozen or so games for the incoming coach to stamp his own authority on the team. Still, the way they played was how I presume Branko would have wanted it, so even if my speculative little hypothesis is correct it should actually work out well.

I hope the board/mgmt just drops this silly "but there's interest from five continents!" crap.
Plenty of SFC fans who'd followed the NSL - including Well-Informed Covite, Giallo and myself - wanted Culina from day one, so I'm delighted that he's there now. If they are stupid enough to get rid of him before the 2007/08 season, then they (the board) deserve all the off-field dramas and dressing-room turmoil they will inevitably get.
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