Only Sydney remains on the A-League coaching carousel

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    Former Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold, always one to throw his two cents in on Australian football. AAP Image/Paul Miller

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    With Graham Arnold confirming late yesterday afternoon his intentions to remain at the Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Heart set to announce their replacement for John van’t Schip this morning, there’ll only be two spots left on the coaching merry-go-round for next season.

    When the Heart announce their man, at 10.30am EST, it will leave the two Sydney clubs as the only ones still to announce their manager.

    For the sake of the development of coaching in Australia, they could do a lot worse than offer the roles to a couple of our talented youngsters.

    Of course, for months it looked almost certain that Arnold would make the move up the F3, and my mail only two weeks ago was that it was all but a done deal.

    But there’s an old adage that sometimes, if these things aren’t sorted quickly, they’re not sorted at all, and that appears to have been the case with this on-again, off-again saga.

    Things can change very quickly in football and only in the last week Sydney FC have had a re-structure in the board-room that has seen David Traktovenko and his son-in-law Scott Barlow assume greater control of the club.

    Meanwhile, up at Bluetongue, Lawrie McKinna has returned from China to take on the role of technical director, while the club works behind the scenes on a funding injection from either Russia or John Singleton, or both.

    How much these recent manoeuvres influenced Arnold’s final decision remains unclear, but at the end of the day it looks like he may have opted for the security and continuity offered by the Mariners over the pressure and dollars offered by Sydney.

    Sydney FC’s football director Gary Cole, in a statement yesterday, offered a different take, claiming Sydney “were presented with some last minute requests, which we were not prepared to meet”.

    Arnold, in truth, never looked totally convinced about Sydney’s offering, regularly clamouring for more favourable terms through the media.

    Things, as they say, weren’t meant to be, and in light of day, the procrastination might prove a blessing for all the parties.

    While there was a strong push for Arnold to come to Sydney in parts of the media, there were also many questions raised about whether he was the right fit for a club looking to rediscover some of the brash and bravado lacking in recent times.

    A manager who has essentially thrived on playing the role of underdog, creating a siege mentality and setting his formation out in a difficult to break down 4-4-2 diamond, Arnold would have had to show a bit more at Sydney.

    Now, he decided, wasn’t the time.

    It means the Mariners can maintain the stability of the past couple of seasons, while Sydney go to plan B.

    Exactly what that is remains unclear, with the rumour-mill yesterday even throwing up the name Ernie Merrick, no doubt due to his past association with Cole at Melbourne Victory.

    In truth, it isn’t an option that garners great enthusiasm.

    Another option, of course, is to bring back former player and assistant coach Tony Popovic.

    That’s of course provided he’s no longer the man for the FFA’s West Sydney franchise.

    Two weeks ago Popovic was the strong fancy for the new role, but in recent days it’s been reported he’s been wavering on a couple of points, including the length of the contract offered.

    Throwing even more intrigue into the mix is what happens at the Heart this morning.

    The strong word is that the club will choose youth coach John Aloisi over first team assistant Ante Milicic.

    If that’s the case, then Milicic, another western Sydney product, with recent experience in the region, having successfully coached Sydney United in the New South Wales Premier League becomes another great option.

    If there’s one thing that resonated at the two forums for the new team that I attended, it’s that the fans want local products involved, so either Popovic or Milicic would prove very popular choices.

    Just as Paul Okon would have been.

    With the former Marconi junior eventually unveiled as the new Young Socceroos manager a fortnight ago, it might create opportunities for the two Sydney United products.

    Three weeks ago I wrote that it’s time for some of our younger breed of managers to be given a chance on the coaching carousel, and it looks like that’s exactly what’s happening.

    If it transpires that Aloisi, Milicic and Popovic line-up at the start of season eight, it would be another step forward in the technical evolution of football in Australia.

    Tony Tannous
    Tony Tannous

    Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA