Earlier this week an event took place that despite its almost inevitability, was still not pleasant. It also highlighted an issue that has been threatening to raise its head ever since the FFA and the state bodies started pushing clubs to ensure that all of their coaches are fully accredited; a good move but one that has come at a cost to individuals.
Taki Nicoliades as coach of Perth Soccer Club lost the Soccer Pools Cup final last weekend 2-1 to Sorrento. It is fair too say Perth did not play well. Their marking was poor for the first goal, and their goalkeeper had a game to forget. Trailing 2-0 at half time there was no one on the pitch to spark a revival. Some would say that is the coaches fault, and it is open for debate. Was he able to make a change that would spark life into his team? With the points restrictions on squads – players are given points based on age and experience – that possibility was diminished. That is always going to be the case in such a set up. No longer can sides inject an experienced player from the bench who has the know-how to change a game.
Following that result Nicoliades was sacked as coach earlier this week. Many at the Final had predicted this outcome whether he won or not, claiming that Perth had interviewed his replacement Gareth Naven in the week leading up to the final. If that was the case shame on Perth Soccer Club.
Gareth Naven is a legend at Perth Soccer Club and has a wealth of experience that few his age can match in Perth and he deserves to be wished the best of luck.
There are many who feel the club let down Nicolaides. However at least he got to contest the Cup Final as coach. In 2011 with the club sitting second on the league ladder they were due to play Sorrento again in the Cup Final that weekend when the club sacked coach Ronnie Campbell.
Campbell was replaced by the assistant the club forced upon him, Gianfranco Circati. Circati brought back all the ageing players Campbell had been trying to replace. Then after a season knowing he would now have to do the same Circati stepped down from the position at the end of the 2012 season, citing work commitments. He was replaced by Mauro Marchione, who like Campbell was left to try and rebuild an ageing side, he lasted until June 2013. At that point Perth had won 4 drawn 2 and lost 6 games, but it was the 8-0 defeat against Bayswater that was the final straw. Nicolaides stepped into the breach, knowing the task ahead. Perth still finished 10th that season. Only the NTC and Armadale below them.
In 2014 Nicolaides oversaw a remarkable turnaround, he lifted the side to second on the ladder, the same position the side finished this season in 2015. In the Finals series of 2014 Perth lost the Grand final 1-0 to Bayswater.
To many this is a very impressive effort in two seasons. Yet it was not enough to save Nicolaides his job. A job most will tell you is done more for love than for money.
Herein lies the issue. The FFA are charging wannabe coaches vast sums of money to become qualified accredited coaches. Money that many wives cannot condone when there are children to clothe and feed. So coaching is now becoming an elitist pastime; it is hard to call it a job on the money they receive.
Add to this the fact that a successful coach such as Nicolaides has no security in his job and can be discarded by a club so easily, one has to ask why would people pay out to become qualified coaches when there is absolutely no job security? Some of those who follow this path have aspirations to coach in the A-League, yet there are currently at least three clubs being sued by past coaches, because they have not had their contracts paid out when they have been relieved of their duties at that level. So the problem runs throughout the game.
Something has gone horribly wrong with the football. Where is the loyalty? Where is the honour between men?
Some will no doubt say that Nicolaides will pick up another job, yet his predecessor Ronnie Campbell has not been in a dug out since leaving Perth. Hopefully he will be offered something, but one has to hope that it will not be until there is a vacant position at the club that is approaching him.
If coaches cannot trust the clubs they work for to behave with honour and decency, what hope do they have of making players perform with passion for that same club?
Should coaches demand contracts when they take on such position, a legal bond between the two parties? Many will tell you that the clubs cannot afford to enter such an agreement, but with coaches investing in their qualifications, and most working longer hours than clubs see, surely they deserve to be treated better. Why else is it that the A-League coaches are currently looking at setting up a union body of their own. Maybe this should be extended to NPL Coaches?
Sport is meant to reflect life, how many of us would accept such behaviour as acceptable in our every day lives? So why should we accept it in sport?