Football managers deserve more respect

Robbie Roar Pro

By Robbie, Robbie is a Roar Pro

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    New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert, left, and captain Ryan Nelsen reacts after their team's 1-0 win over Bahrain in the World Cup qualifying playoff second leg soccer match at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009. (AP Photo/NZPA, Ross Setford)

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    A few disappointing losses for the Wellington Phoenix and the media were already on Ricki Herbert’s back, demanding his resignation. This was before the Nix were sliced open and disembowelled by a bloodthirsty Sydney FC in a 7-1 massacre.

    Now the fans and the club will be demanding Herbert’s head.

    With crowds flagging at Westpac Stadium this season, Herbert made the bold decision to implement a more fluid possession-based game. Admittedly, this was a big mistake. The Phoenix have lost their last four matches.

    No team can adapt to a new style with a click of the fingers. Not even professional teams. Players need time to learn the new system and change their mindset. Decision-making comes from experience after all.

    However, does this mean Ricki Herbet should be sacked as soon as possible? No. Nor does Herbert need to be given one last chance. He has already proved himself.

    Herbert, almost singlehandedly, has brought New Zealand football out of the desolate doldrums into which it was descending. He took over a New Zealand Knights team that had won just three times in two seasons and gave them three wins in five games before the club was dissolved.

    He has led the Wellington Phoenix to the play-offs of the A-League finals series. An impressive feat for a team based in a country where football is in no way the dominant sport.

    Let’s not forget that Herbert carried New Zealand into the limelight at the 2010 World Cup. The All Whites left the tournament as the only undefeated team and picked up a one-all draw against the previous winners of the tournament, Italy. Not bad for a country who, at the time, only had 25 professional players.

    Herbert has put his heart and soul into the Nix. He has managed the club since its formation in 2007. He does not deserve to be sacked so brusquely. He deserves more respect.

    And he is not the only one. Managers all over the world are under intense pressure from their clubs’ boards. If a team has a poor string of results, the players will keep playing until the end of their contracts.

    Managers, however, are falling down like ten-pins.

    Nigel Adkins, for example, who brought Southampton from the third tier of English football to the English Premier League, has just been sacked. Just one in an extensive list of loyal managers sacrificed due to the greed of board members and owners who seem to expect miracles.

    Southampton fans are outraged. Rightly so.

    It was a similar case with the sacking of Di Matteo, a former Chelsea player and a club legend. Roman Abramovich has no respect for the game and no respect for his club.

    He expects that pumping millions of dollars into the club and replacing the coach every season will bring immediate results.

    This is not true. Clubs are built on a core of players and staff. Graham Arnold has done this with the Central Coast Mariners. Ricki Herbert has done this with the Wellington Phoenix. Both managers have seen unprecedented success.

    Herbert will be forever haunted by the photo of Del Piero, surrounded by his teammates, his fist pumping the air in triumph, while the crowd scream and jump in the background. The picture will be printed and reprinted for days.

    This will be enough to keep him awake at night for weeks. He doesn’t need to fear for his job too.

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    The Crowd Says (4)

    • January 21st 2013 @ 9:54am
      Tony said | January 21st 2013 @ 9:54am | ! Report

      Robbie, I don’t think the media are demanding Herbert’s head just yet, but he certianly needs to take stock and start working out just why the Phoenix have been so poor this season.

      Their crowds are the worst in the League and dwindling fast, and it’s a sorry situation for a team who have previously been defensively very strong.

      The Nix have never scored truck loads of goals, but have always been solid at the back.

      I think it’s time for a new right back (Bertos is really a winger), and for Ian Hogg to get a crack next week at left back in place of Tony Lochhead.

      The Phoenix (and the All Whites for that matter) have always played a direct brand of football under Herbert with plenty of balls into the box. Key to their success was Lochhead’s deliveries (he was my man of the match for NZ against Slovakia at the World Cup), but sadly I think Lochhead’s time might have come, as well as Herbert’s other World Cup heroes like Bertos and Paston.

      Time for some big changes…

    • Roar Guru

      January 21st 2013 @ 11:11am
      Atawhai Drive said | January 21st 2013 @ 11:11am | ! Report

      I was at Saturday’s match, Sydney FC member that I am. Of course it was delightful to see the Sky Blues finally fire, but it was hard not to feel sympathy for the Phoenix players and coaching staff, and their fans. They made quite a number of chances but for whatever reason couldn’t finish them off. Their defence was terrible.

      On Sunday and again this morning I logged on to the Stuff and NZHerald websites, expecting the knives to be out for Herbert. But it’s all been a bit muted so far.

      Professional sports teams are judged by their results. When things go wrong, the coach invariably cops most of the blame. It’s not really fair, but that’s the reality.

      Who would take over if Herbert does get punted?

    • January 21st 2013 @ 4:31pm
      hog said | January 21st 2013 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

      Surely some of the blame has to go to the owners, yes a better playing style needs to be implemented but even a casual observer like myself could tell you that they do not have the players willing or capable of playing a more attractive brand of football.
      Obviously you then need to recruit players and that would have been much better done at season’s end.
      An interesting observation that i thought had some truth is that as the A league has improved the pheonix have stayed at the same level.
      And for whatever reasons losing players of the class of Rojas, Smeltz, Barbarousas, does not help.
      Crowds are dwindling yes, but Wellington does not have great weather especially in the early part of the season, and WHY OH WHY did they not build an 20,000 seat indoor suited to Rugby and soccer.

    • January 21st 2013 @ 4:58pm
      AGO74 said | January 21st 2013 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

      Herbert is a NZ football legend and always will be. Unfortunately for him though where as in past years it has been possible to be manager of both Phoenix and All Whites, this is no longer possible. They are both full-time jobs.

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