Saturday, January 31, 2009


Real Sydney

Sydney FC was once infamously dubbed the Manchester United of the A-League. As the fourth manager of the club heads out the door, I'm inclined to think of it rather as the Real Madrid of the A-League, given the coaching merry-go-round that the fans have had to endure season after season.

It was perhaps inevitable that Kosmina would be a casualty of the regime change at the club, and some of the fans will undoubtedly be celebrating. I can't quite share the joy.

Whatever the luck he enjoyed in 2007/08, including two soft opposition red cards in successive weeks (against Central Coast and Adelaide), the fact remains that Kosmina dragged the team from the bottom half of the ladder to within a victory of the Premiers' Plate. In 2008/09, he had the side playing some good football until John Aloisi was awkwardly slotted in, the injuries mounted, the defence became a wreck, and several players lost form.

The blame for some of this can be laid at his door. But not all of it.

Ironically, Branko Culina, another Sydney FC manager who was booted somewhat prematurely, stuck up for Kosmina earlier this month, making an obvious and pertinent point:

You name me one coach in the A-League who hasn't had a difficult time. It is difficult to run a successful organisation and plan for it if you are making those changes so frequently.

Culina, like his successor, was the subject of cutting second-hand criticism towards the end of his tenure. And it is this phenomenon of constant innuendo issuing from the dressing-room which leads me to think that the real problems with Sydney FC (from an on-field point of view) do not centre around the man in the (track-)suit.

Terry Butcher left after persistent suggestions in the press that he was a tactical idiot with a laughably outdated approach to coaching. The ultimate source of these grumbles? The players.

Branko Culina was accused of confusing the team with rambling dissertations about tactics, and of being unable to express his wishes at all clearly. The source? The players again.

Now, we hear that John Kosmina has been undermining the players in public (an unfair criticism, in my view), and that he has alienated the dressing-room with his bullying methods (slightly easier to believe). The source of these revelations? Naturally, the players.

Whoever steps into the hot seat would be well advised to watch their back.

And who should it be? Brian Brown has certainly shown his credentials at state league level in recent years, but he may not be inclined to endure the extra travelling and pressure involved. Should Graham Arnold even be mooted for the post, you can expect mutiny on the streets. The obvious choice at the time of Culina's dismissal, Aytek Genc, has become the latest incumbent at another club with a revolving-door coaching policy, namely Sydney Olympic.

The two overseas coaches used by Sydney FC so far have been relatively unimpressive, but it wouldn't be a surprise if the new owners opted for a foreign recruit. They should exercise extreme caution, however, given the track record of ring-in coaches in the A-League.

The thought of Arnold should not even be entertained or mentioned - not even as a joke. Not even if it guarenteed world peace. "Mutiny" would be an understatement.
a lot of sfc fans are happy - but there is always the chance that sfc will get a worse coach.

or one who will be merely human and have the same trouble fitting aloisi into this team (amongst many other troubles) that kosmina had.

but the ultimate problem is the idea that sydney is a big team and that thousands of fans are waiting to support them if they became successful. they need to win over sydney - not hope a couple of wins will turn into 60,000 crowd per home game numbers ...

The comparisons to Real Madrid and Manchester United remind me of the late Rob Pilatus (of Milli Vanilli fame) comparing himself to Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney. He was widely ridiculed, and Milli Vanilli became easy targets in the media even before they were found out.

The root causes of Sydney FC's woes are many. It starts at boardroom level and goes all the way down to the players. The culture of the club is rotten and needs to be cleaned up by new owners.

The whole "bling bling" glitz-and-glamour image has become an albatross around the club's neck, alienating as it has many football supporters in the city, a boon to any second Sydney club coming in. To be blunt, absolutely no club in this country has earned the right to call itself a glamour club like a Manchester United, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Boca Juniors or even Al-Ahly. Those clubs have earned their aristocratic status in football over decades, not by what they proclaim themselves before a ball is kicked in anger.

And such branding reflects our over-commercialised society, where football and everything else in life has been prostituted for greed and glamour, one of the root causes of the world's current economic mess. Getting back to basics is the socially responsible thing to do in these times.

The reason foreign coaches have not succeeded in this league, by and large, is because the ones recruited aren't any good to begin with. None of Steve McMahon, Terry Butcher or Pierre Littbarski came to this league with good reputations as coaches, only what they achieved as players. In fact, Butcher and McMahon achieved particularly poisonous reputations with clubs they've managed before (Coventry, Sunderland and Swindon respectively). Only Richard Money went on to achieve any real success upon leaving Australia.

There are many good foreign coaches who are available, have good track records and a preference for attractive football, that would raise the level of coaching in this country and provide a platform for which local coaches can improve, as we've seen in Japan. It will take time but the rewards will be beyond measure.
to be honest the best football Sydney has ever palyed was under Culina in the ACL.

Why this style was changed is beyond me unless under pressure from not winning enough matches he changed.

Butcher was no coach and nor was Kossie.
Up to and including this season, Sydney was a magnet for Australian players. Bridge, Collosimo, Aloisi.

This will be their challenge. The new coach may convince some hotshot foriegn players. But most A-Leaguers have made their internal A-League choice.

I suspect Sydney will take some years to get their credibility back. particularly if we stay at only 2 ACL spots, and say 12 teams. Particularly if one of teams 11 and 12 is in western Sydney - that is where all the hidden talent is.

This year it was injury and Aloisi. next year the salary cap will bite.
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