Is Farina the ‘Benitez’ option at Sydney FC?

Joe Gorman Columnist

By Joe Gorman, Joe Gorman is a Roar Expert

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    Sydney, June 29, 2005, Australia's Frank Farina. AAP Image/Matthias Engesser

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    Frank Farina, the former golden boy of Australian football, yesterday became the new head coach of Sydney FC.

    After three years in the wilderness since being sacked by Brisbane Roar for drink driving, Farina makes his return to the most difficult coaching job in the country.

    Farina becomes the seventh coach at Sydney FC, taking a Sky Blues side that are anchored to the bottom of the table and in their worst vein of form in years.

    Hiring an Australian coach who understands the A-League – despite the apparent shortages in the local market – was always likely at this point in the season.

    However, after being only offered a deal until the end of the season, the pressure on Farina to get Sydney FC performing is enormous. If he fails to kick start Sydney’s season, it seems highly unlikely that the board will extend his contract.

    With Alessandro Del Piero in the squad for this season and the next, there is little time for Sydney to dither or rebuild. To reap an adequate reward for their investment, the board needs success fast.

    It is difficult not to compare Farina’s task with Rafael Benitez’s at Chelsea. Both have replaced coaches that are highly popular with fans, and both are expected to get quick results with a squad that isn’t of their own making. Don’t be surprised if Farina and Benitez are both just stop-gaps for the rest of the season.

    In many ways, Frank Farina could be on a hiding to nothing.

    There is no question that Farina is an experienced Australian coach. After relatively successful stints with the Brisbane Strikers and Marconi-Fairfield, Farina was thrown into the deep end early with the Socceroos, taking the job in 1999 after Terry Venables.

    Like Graham Arnold, Farina took over the Socceroos long before he was ready for the job. Both did the governing body a favour, perhaps to the detriment of their long-term development as coaches.

    Indeed, Farina has the somewhat ignominious record of being replaced by coaches who went on to have magnificent results after him.

    Guus Hiddink added discipline and style to the Socceroos, and tightened their leaky defence. Similarly, when Ange Postecoglou took over at Brisbane Roar, Farina’s ‘mates’ were eschewed for a younger, fresher and more disciplined squad.

    Both the Socceroos and the Roar, unfortunately for Farina, looked and played far better after he’d departed the scene.

    Whether or not this was simply a cruel coincidence is difficult to say. Yet one of the common threads between Hiddink and Postecoglou was that they managed to get the best out of their younger players, while disciplining or forcing out older established players.

    Hiddink regularly benched Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill, while fast-tracking fringe players Jason Culina and Luke Wilkshire into the starting eleven. Similarly, Postecoglou turned Luke DeVere and Matt McKay into high-quality perfformers at the expense of veterans Charlie Miller and Craig Moore.

    With this in mind, is Farina the appropriate man for the job at Sydney?

    There will remain questions over Farina’s ability to control Sydney’s senior players while promoting the club’s considerable young talent. Young players like Seb Ryall, Dimitri Petratos, Rhyan Grant, Mitch Malia, Hagi Gligor and particularly Terry Antonis all have the ability to perform at the top level, given the right opportunity and guidance.

    Fixing Sydney’s leaky defence, however, will be priority number one for Frank Farina.

    Its true that everybody deserves a second chance. With renaissance man John Kosmina in career-best form at Adelaide, this might be the chance Farina needs to rejuvenate his own career. However, being thrown into the spotlight in the most volatile coaching position in the competition is hardly the ideal place for redemption.

    Good luck to him. Let’s hope that his exile from the local game has given him the time and space to develop and learn his craft. The tactical standard of the A-League has risen considerably since 2009. Fans now expect their team to win with style.

    Will Frank Farina, the blast from the past, be able to catch up?

    Joe Gorman
    Joe Gorman

    Joe Gorman is a football journalist with a particular interest in sports history. After completing his thesis on football in Australia, Joe started with The Roar in October 2012. He tweets from @JoeGorman_89.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • November 29th 2012 @ 7:52am
      steven said | November 29th 2012 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      Good article. I have huge reservations about Farina, but at least it’s only until the end of the season if he doesn’t perform.

    • November 29th 2012 @ 8:19am
      jbinnie said | November 29th 2012 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      Joe – A well produced & debated offering & one little paragraph sums it up all too well. I refer to you saying GA & FF were offered & took, (who can blame them for that) , national coaching jobs long before they were ready. You rightly point the finger at “the governing body ” of the time which I feel should be pointed out was 1999, six years before the start of the HAL.
      However, when one looks at the “coach hiring record” of Sydney in the HAL one cannot help but wonder if the same sort of thinking exists in their management team today as was prevalent back in those “dying years” of the NSL.!!!!!! Keep up the good work Joe. jb

    • November 29th 2012 @ 9:28am
      Rusty0256 said | November 29th 2012 @ 9:28am | ! Report

      The ongoing similarities with the situation at Melbourne Victory last year continue; a management team unable to lure the coach it really wants (Postecoglou / Arnold), settling for an inexperienced youth team coach (Durakovic / Crook) then lumbering said coach with a very high-profile star player (Kewell / Del Piero) that proceeded to suck in massive volumes of media attention that in turn throws the respective inexperienced coaches into a spotlight that neither feels even remotely comfortable in. Said superstars, despite their individual skills, fail to compensate for coaching and other squad inadequacies and sooner rather than later coaches either resign (SFC) or are shown the door (MV).

      Then to try and somehow rescue their poorly designed sinking ships, the respective managements of MV and SFC opt for the ‘short-term fix’ of bringing in an experienced coach on a short-term deal; a carrot and stick deal that offers the possibility of a long term contract if said coach turns their fortunes around and somehow drags the team into the finals (but is also more or less implicit that if he fails, he goes back out the door).

      The main divergance of this pattern of behaviours and actions is that Victory’s Magilton was an outsider with no experience or apparent understanding of the unique aspects of the A-League, wheras Farina knows the game here intimately.

      But the ultimate question remains for Farina, as it did for Magilton; how mach can be achieved using the ‘cattle’ you have; how to turn losers into winners in a very short timespan and how to compensate for pre-existing damage such as a lack of match fitness which seems to have equally been a problem last year at Victory.

      I guess it’s up to Frank Farina to show that he can break this pattern that has thus far mirrored almost exactly the experiences of their dark-blue enemies from the South.

      • November 29th 2012 @ 11:36am
        Rado the brains said | November 29th 2012 @ 11:36am | ! Report

        Bang on the money! They really should have been looking for a coach to set things up long term given clubs can now talk to off contract players. Guess it’s flattering that sfc are copying what MV do 😛

      • Columnist

        November 29th 2012 @ 1:00pm
        Joe Gorman said | November 29th 2012 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

        i’d agree there are some unfortunate similarities.

    • November 29th 2012 @ 9:47am
      Towser said | November 29th 2012 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      Thats been the problem with SFC from day one thinking or to be more precise not thinking ahead ,lack of planning,
      You can add CEO’s to the Coach saga too,six is it or thereabouts.
      As they say in Yorkshire Sydney FC have always got it ar*e uppuds.
      To get the most out of Del Piero ,he should have come into a stable club environment.
      By that into a club with an already proven style that suits the Sydney football market,an entrenched coach whose got them playing that way & long term back up staff.
      Instead he comes into a scenario where one coach leaves whose style dragged the crowds down to an average of 8000 season before last,theres a new rookie coach, CEO & football director.
      So I disagree with this article. For one Di Matteo had won something & wasn’t going too bad. Crook had won nothing & was doing crap.
      Secondly Chelsea know what football satisfies their fans & thirdly I’m sure they’ve been a lot more stable in the backroom than Sydney FC have over the last 8 Years.

      • Columnist

        November 29th 2012 @ 10:24am
        Joe Gorman said | November 29th 2012 @ 10:24am | ! Report

        well i’m not comparing Chelsea and Sydney, i’m simply pointing out the current similarities between Benitez and Farina. They have similar tasks ahead of them – to turn an underperforming team around without the guarantee of a long contract or the chance to build their own squad.

        • November 29th 2012 @ 10:41am
          Towser said | November 29th 2012 @ 10:41am | ! Report

          Of that I can agree.

    • November 30th 2012 @ 6:46am
      james rosewarne said | November 30th 2012 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      Another really good piece, Joe. Keep up the good work!

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