Coaches under pressure


It didn’t take long. The first coach shown the door for the 2011/2012 Hyundai A-League season, didn’t even make it through the season launch.

It didn-t take long. The first coach shown the door for the 2011/2012 Hyundai A-League season, didn-t even make it through the season launch.

A phone call from Newcastle Jets Owner, Nathan Tinkler on Tuesday morning, meant that Branko Culina-s season was over before it even began.

The Jets shock decision shows how swiftly the axe can fall, and while not the case for Culina, if the old adage that “coaches live and die by their results” is true, then there must be a few other coaches approaching the new season with some trepidation.

With season seven primed for kick-off, a total of 30 coaches have graced the benches (including now defunct outfits New Zealand Knights and North Queensland Fury) – an average of 4 departures per season.

While this average attrition rate makes the Australian domestic league appear kinder than most, Culina-s abrupt termination puts paid to the assumption that an A-League gig is one of the safer jobs in football.

The two most successful coaches in the league-s short history (Ernie Merrick and Lawrie McKinna) will watch the season kick off from their living rooms, a timely reminder for those remaining 9 men at the collective helms of their clubs as they prepare for battle.

Indeed, there are some for whom points will be paramount if they are to survive to celebrate Christmas in their current position.

With North Queensland now committed to the history books – their enigmatic coach Franz Straka now in the Czech Republic with Slavia Prague – it is his Fury predecessor who starts out this season most under the pump.

Ian Ferguson is certainly a man for whom the first few months are crucial. His combined time in charge of the Fury and Perth Glory has yielded a win tally only just in double figures.

While recruitment in the west has again been encouraging, if the crowd figures continue to disappoint, then it may be owner Tony Sage – who has once more invested heavily – who will decide Fergie-s future.

Over on the Eastern Seaboard, Vitezslav Lavicka faces a similar predicament. The fact that Sydney FC suffered a wholesale clear out after their title win in 09/10 can no longer be an excuse if “the nicest man in football” again fails to post a win in 10 long weeks – as happened last season.

Sydney is such an important piece of the A-League jigsaw, but fans in the Harbour City are spoiled for sporting choice and demand success. While no-one has a bad word to say about Vitja, that will count for little if he has another sluggish start.

No mean feat incidentally, when your first four matches are Victory, Roar, Adelaide and Heart.

Melbourne Heart and Adelaide United have two coaches for whom the honeymoon is now over, and of the two Dutchmen, John Van-t Schip has the most to prove. An improvement on their 8th place finish is imperative.

Melbourne Victory are the only side to have a new man in charge, and with Kevin Muscat at his side, Mehmet Durakovic should be well equipped to handle the expectations – and the circus, that surrounds the arrival of his new marquee player.

He has big shoes to fill however, and even bigger expectations from the fans, but will likely be given leeway to prove himself.

With no relegation in the Hyundai A-League, the clubs are guaranteed entrée to successive seasons…subject to financial viability and owners whims of course. For coaches though, the drop zone remains a very real threat.