Friday, February 22, 2008


Kossie's Final Step, Part 1

Long-time denizens of the Australian football blogosphere will know that Shane Davis's site has become inactive of late. But never fear, the man himself is still around, and still as astute an observer of Australian and world football as ever.

He will soon be launching a new football-related site, but in the meantime he has kindly offered his services to TFT; below, in the first of a couple of in-depth articles, he dissects the managerial career of John Kosmina, whose Sydney FC side lost fairly ignominiously to Houston Dynamo yesterday.

In the aftermath of Adelaide's devastating 6-0 Grand Final loss in 2007 and his subsequent resignation as coach, John Kosmina commented that "for me, a big part of life is about learning from your mistakes - and I've learned a lot from mine." There was indeed much to learn and rectify, but Kosmina had shown over time an ability to steadily improve throughout his national league coaching career.

Even by the (then weak) club's standards, his first national league head coaching stint with the Newcastle Breakers was poor, at least in hindsight. The side finished between last and 11th (in a 14 team league) in three seasons before Kosmina's tenure ended in 1998, but went on to narrowly miss out on a top six finals placing in their two following (and final) seasons under Lee Sterrey, despite the squad being arguably weaker with the likes of Troy Halpin and Clayton Zane having departed.

Kosmina moved on to the Brisbane Strikers in 1998-1999, where things improved somewhat. The Queenslanders were regular middle-table finishers, but couldn't quite make the finals until 2001-2002. Things looked to be on the up going into 2002-2003, so a 10th place finish (out of 13 teams) was a considerable disappointment, and Kosmina left in the off-season. Again, a side he departed improved the season afterwards, making the finals after losing many of its best players in Fernando Rech, Jon McKain, Richard Alagich, Stephen Laybutt and Anthony Roche (leading scorer with 12 goals in 21 appearances in 2002-2003), as well as Shane Stefanutto halfway through 2003-2004.

Then the move back home in 2003 to take charge of new boys Adelaide United. Kosmina's coaching record ever since has improved markedly. Third place in the NSL's final season (although, below the top two of Perth Glory and Parramatta Power, it was probably the weakest the league had been for many years), premiers in the A-League's inaugural season, runners-up and grand finalists in 2006-2007 and then third with Sydney FC after taking over with the club struggling mid-season.

While it has helped that Kosmina has been one of the few A-League coaches to date to have had the benefit of recent NSL coaching experience and the first-hand familiarity and knowledge of the local scene it brings, he has undoubtedly developed into a better coach since going to Adelaide, for mine. Perhaps it is still too early to take too much from his Sydney tenure to date (Messrs. Littbarski, Butcher and Culina enjoyed relatively successful starts, to varying degrees), but I thought that Adelaide were the best wing-playing outfit, and their structure as a whole was impressive, in the first two seasons of a league that has often struggled for cohesive team structures and constructive play out wide.

And unlike his first two coaching stints, Adelaide then took a turn for the worse following Kosmina's departure with arguably a stronger and more vibrant squad this season. To me, it seemed that back in his home town and with his club's off-field situation for once being healthy, the move allowed Kosmina to settle, and what can be an astute footballing mind to concentrate on producing one of the better assembled, prepared and functioning outfits in the national league, as well as generally a more versatile outfit than his previous teams.

That is, as always, until the finals came around. More to come.

Shane Davis

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