Miron Bleiberg’s sacking from Gold Coast United has robbed the A-League of one of its true characters. And he will be missed.
Bleiberg departed United after falling out with Clive Palmer after the controversial owner handed 17-year-old debutant Mitch Cooper the captaincy for last Friday’s game. This decision was a slap in the face to football history, the A-League and Cooper himself, putting a lot of unnecessary pressure and attention on the kid, not to mention common sense.
After voicing an understandable and reasonable explanation of the decision, Bleiberg was suspended and the writing was on the wall on his Gold Coast future.
So the colourful Israeli and former Israeli Navy captain has ended his stint with Australian football, but for how long is hard to say.
Bleiberg’s history down under goes back a long way, back to the Melbourne Knights in the NSL, who he coached in the 1985 and 1986 NSL seasons. In 1985 he led them to a fifth place and in 1986 a 10th place in the NSL’s 12-team southern conference.
He then moved to Maribyrnong Polonia and the club won the 1987 Victorian State League title, before decamping for short stints at Croydon City and Heidelberg United. In 1991 Bleiberg moved north to take charge of Brisbane United, a new club backed by the Queensland Soccer Federation, in the NSL for two years but found success limited there.
He then joined North Star for a season and Brisbane Lions for five seasons, winning a string of Queensland Premier League championships.
After a spell in charge of the Queensland State team he rejoined the Queensland Lions, formerly the Brisbane Lions, which later joined the A-League in 2005 as the Queensland Roar. Bleiberg won more titles with the Queensland Lions and was then named as the Roar’s inaugural A-League coach.
In the first year of the new competition the Roar finished sixth out of eight teams, but were only three points off a finals berth. His Roar squad played attacking football and were entertaining to watch, personified by a 5-0 thrashing of the Newcastle Jets on 26 January, 2006.
In Round 15 of the A-League’s second season Bleiberg resigned as coach and was replaced by Frank Farina. At the time the Roar were in fourth spot after losing just two of their first eight games. But after that point the club had lost four in a row, in Rounds 11 to 14, and the Israeli departed.
He then spent a year with the Gold Coast Stars rep team before being appointed as the head coach of new A-League club Gold Coast United.
His time at United has been a mix of ups and downs. The club started the 2009-2010 season with a bang, playing some good football and making some proud boasts on what they would do. They eventually finished third but provided some highlights through the performances of stars like Jason Culina and Shane Smeltz.
The next season they finished fourth and were one game away from making the grand final, suffering a narrow 1-0 loss to the Central Coast Mariners, who went on to face Brisbane Roar.
But the wheels have came off spectacularly this season, with a loss of experienced players and a focus of youth ending in a current last position on the ladder.
A number of crisis’, run-ins with the FFA, player contract dramas with Culina, Peter Perchtold and Robson, not to mention a lack of community engagement and fan support have ended in a perfect storm for Bleiberg.
Dealing with the A-League’s most painful owner has surely wore thin, and despite his role as a promoter of the sport through some colourful comments and antics, the Israeli’s time is up.
Bleiberg isn’t every football fan’s cup of tea, but he has been fun to watch.
From his press conferences, his interviews and his unique view on the game, the 57-year-old has benefited Australian football. From the NSL to the Victorian and Queensland State Leagues, and the A-League, his teams have always tried to play good football and he has claimed several titles.
He hasn’t shied away from a blue or innovation – claimed as a world’s first for football, Bleiberg was miked-up during Gold Coast’s match against Wellington Phoenix on 15 January this year.
With shades of Jose Mourinho and Gordon Strachan, Bleiberg has been a coach that breathed oxygen into the often stale A-League coaching ranks.
I only had the pleasure of interviewing the lively coach once, for a piece for the now defunct magazine Australian Football Weekly. There was one particular quote that stuck in my mind, about the changing cost of tickets to see Gold Coast United play.
“I’m a football coach and I’m not that smart. There’s one principle you learn in life that if a Big Mac costs $5 and you sell it for $2 your going to sell more. And if it costs $5 and you sell it for $10 your going to sell less. It’s in every field of life. You have to find the right balance.”
Cheeky, irreverent, out-there. Sometimes annoying, always opinionated, often entertaining, that was Miron.
Great for a quote and someone who could also coach. Miron you will be missed.