Thursday, July 02, 2009


Branko Redux

The Newcastle soap opera continues, with Branko Culina taking a second shot at the A-League after the surprise departure of Gary van Egmond.

Culina has a considerable cheer squad within Australian football, with one of his long-term fans welcoming his return with open arms. If he can indeed get Newcastle playing football similar to that of his Sydney United and Sydney Olympic sides during the fading days of the NSL, the fans will be grateful. But if Newcastle's roster is anything like the mish-mash of last season, he will face a tough task.

I remain of the opinion that he wasn't given enough time at Sydney FC, even though, as even Les admits in the above piece, some of the stories about his relations with the players there made one cringe. John Kosmina was clearly destined for the hot seat sooner or later when Frank Lowy took over control of the turned out to be sooner.

But given Culina's unwise recruitment prior to that 2007/08 season, much of it seemingly based on nostalgia rather than good sense, there is cause to be wary in that department. Although I didn't see the Jets' abject collapse against Pohang last week, some of their other performances in the ACL gave the impression that they were a patched-together group playing temporarily above themselves, with impressive leadership provided by Ljubo Milicevic at the back. Culina is taking the reins at a club without a properly settled team, and he will have to choose his troops carefully.

Back to van Egmond for a moment. On the whole, he did a fine job at Newcastle in often intolerably awkward circumstances. They were at a very low ebb when he took over, and yet they were playing the finest football in the league by the end of the 06/07 season. The year after, there was the Mario Jardel embarrassment, not to mention the loss of Nick Carle, Vaughan Coveny and Paul Okon, and yet he took them to the title. The 08/09 season was a wreck, but very little of the blame for that deserved to be laid at van Egmond's feet.

Whether the FFA or van Egmond himself have acted improperly over the AIS position is a difficult question. If Con Constantine's claims about the matter are true, then he certainly has a legitimate grievance...but you never quite know whether to take the Newcastle chairman's statements at face value.

Hmmm... the return of Branko. His time at Sydney may have been short, but his approach was very questionable IMO. Ian Fyfe at left back? David Zdrilic at right back? Plus several behind the scenes stories that are truly cringeworthy (see SFCU for occasional references to hugs). Will be interesting to say the least.
To be honest I don't mind Branko but in this case he simply doesn't have the squad to compete this year. Jets will finish in the bottom three.

Hopefully Con gives him the second year and we might see what he can do.
Patience is very thin in most football clubs good luck to Branko.
Lets hope that Con and the fans get behind the coach .
The biggest problem I see with Branko is his friendship with `SBS negatives` due to this association many would like to see him fail
I thought Sydney played its best football ever in the ACL under Culina. But for butterfingers Bolton, we might have got through to the knockout stage.

On the GVE move - I thought the AIS job was via an open application process. He applied for the job, and was then offered it because he was the best applicant. It was his decision to take it, although he had years left on his contract with the Jets.

If that's right, Con's remedy is for breach of contract with GVE, not the AIS or FFA.

And why hasn't someone asked what Ljubo thinks of it all? ;-)
@ againstthecrossbar

Bottom 3? This season, all they have to do is finish 5th from bottom and they'll make the semis!
My problem with the Branko appointment is that I truly question if his heart is in the gig.

And with GVE giving 2 year contracts to youngsters of questionable ability prior to leaving I expect a frustrating season. We need 3 very, very good signings.
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