There are many fans around the Hyundai A league that for some reason do not like Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick. It may be that they do not get his dry sense of humour, or it could be the fact that he keeps his emotions in check, and when the team wins lets the players take the credit.
But heading for possibly a third Grand Final victory in six seasons and winning two Coach of the year awards in that time gives you the right to comment on the game. Also as the only inaugural coach still in the Hyundai A league and still with the same club, you should be listened to.
Merrick is to all intents and purposes a mild mannered man, not given to emotional rants, and that should be taken into account when we look at his comments yesterday.
Melbourne Victory asked the FFA for assistance in their negotiations with the Asian Football Confederation over their punishing fixture schedule which was exacerbated with a string of injuries. Initially they asked if they could swap their home and away fixtures with Beijing Guoan, so that they would not have to travel immediately after the first leg of their A league semi final on February 18th against Sydney. This request fell on deaf ears.
Now a request to change the second away game against Kawasaki Frontale in Japan, which is just three days after the March 20 A League Grand Final has also fallen on deaf ears.
”I don’t think there’s any point in dealing with the FFA and the AFC … they just don’t move on anything, look at the situation. We tried to switch the Beijing game to a home game but nobody seems to want to change. We have to accept it and get on with it, but we are certainly getting no help from the FFA.” Merrick said.
Damning criticism of the body charged with running the game in Australia, whose aim is to get the best results for the players and the clubs. Are the FFA holding back on this because they have to be sure of getting the Asian votes in their World Cup hosting bids?
It seems strange that they are not looking at the welfare of the players with the World Cup just around the corner, and Australia’s success in the Asian Champions League being vital to the financial success of the A League clubs.
But Merrick was not finished there. As stated on this site previously the standard of referees and their assistants in Australia are not up to the standard they need to be, despite what we are constantly told. ”I have been taking a stream of mistakes up with the FFA for five years. The rule is, if they are in line or close, the advantage should go to the attacking team,” Merrick stated. ”They just can’t get it right, especially in finals, and it’s very frustrating. It probably wouldn’t happen in any other sport and the same people that make the same decisions and make the same mistakes are still doing the job. I made the point at half-time because I was trying to effect it during the game, while you have a chance, to get them to just play to the rules. That’s all. I just want them to get the rule correct.”
He is right and as much as we do not envy the task of referees, they are hurting the game, from a fans, coach’s and player perspective. As one European player in the A League stated they blow up for things that are never fouls because they do not understand the game, tackles where players have gone in hard and won the ball. But because it was a physical challenge it must be a foul. As this player said, it is very hard to adapt your game to the style of refereeing, the question is do we want them to, and should they have to?
Will these decisions deter some players from coming to Australia? Maybe, but probably not, however they may influence the coaches as to the type of player they recruit. It was time that these comments were made, Ernie will no doubt be fined, but if he cannot say them from the position of the being the most successful coach in the A League who can?