The van’t Schip dilemma

Matt Bungard Roar Guru

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    It came to light this afternoon that Melbourne Heart’s manager John van’t Schip will be leaving the expansion franchise at the end of the year.

    The Dutchman was in charge of the Heart since their first game, was instrumental in bringing in experienced continental players like Gerald Sibon and Rutger Worm, reliable A-League veterans like Clint Bolton and Matt Thompson, with a sprinkle of young stars to compliment these old heads.

    After a disappointing first season that saw the club finish 8th despite some promising performances (including winning the first ever Melbourne derby) the Heart have come on in leaps and bounds this year and currently sit in fifth place, after being as high as second.

    It seems like the Heart have a bright future ahead of them; with Adrian Zahra almost due back from his maiming at the hands of Kevin Muscat and young players like Aziz Behich and Eli Babalj playing so well.

    So, it’s pretty likely that the red and white half of Melbourne will feature prominently in the finals series. The question has to be asked: Why is coach van’’t Schip leaving? Why now?

    Well, the most obvious thing to do would be attributing his departure to homesickness, and given the number of foreign managers that have come and gone in the fledging years of the A-League, it’s not a bad guess.

    Pierre Littbarski won the league in its inaugural season and still decided to part ways with Sydney FC (although to be fair, he floated around Japan and the Gulf for a couple of years before heading back to the comforts of Europe) and since then a swathe of other offshore gaffers had limited tenures, be it voluntary or forced:

    Terry Butcher, Richard Money, Rini Coolen, Steve McMahon and Franz Straka are just a few of the names that came over with big ambitions and left with very little to show for their efforts. We may also add Jim Magilton to that list soon enough unless Melbourne Victory markedly improve.

    Others like Miron Bleiberg, Ernie Merrick and Lawrie McKinna had decent runs with their respective club(s) but all three were firmly entrenched in the Australian system long before the A-League and could hardly be considered ‘foreign coaches’.

    So that leaves us with Vitezslav Lavicka, who has been constantly rumoured to be on the way out at Sydney FC, and Ian Ferguson, whose position is anything but stable.

    With van’t Schip came a foreign coach with a stable job, a young squad that looked nothing but promising and who was coaching in a market that loves football.

    It wasn’t a situation like Straka in North Queensland who was; 1. Living on borrowed time with a doomed franchise and 2. Stuck in an area with little interest in the game.

    Heart Chairman Peter Sidwell said in a statement earlier today that “John arrived in Melbourne with a clear vision for the establishment of this club, as a proponent of the fundamental belief in challenging the status quo by demonstrating the importance of developing youth and instilling an ethos underlined by playing attractive, attacking football,” and given his proud history as both an Ajax player and manager as well as a Dutch international, the public expected free flowing and slick football from the Heart – who, to the best of their abilities, have obliged.

    The second part of that quote is particularly interesting. Sidwell mentioned the status quo and it’s clear that that can be deciphered as a reference to the overwhelming UK-centric feel that the league has to it, most recently supported by their cross town rivals signing of Jim Magilton.

    He was the caretaker coach of Ajax, he will absolutely no trouble finding more work on the continent. So perhaps it’s not as much homesickness as it is ambition.

    Yes, he could take the Heart to an A-League title, but what then? Wait around for another year after that to try and win the Asian Champions League? And would winning the domestic league in Australia really bolster his credentials in Europe?

    Teams will be looking at his history in Amsterdam first, his successes in Melbourne a mere footnote.

    It’s been mentioned that the Heart will be trying to find a replacement as quickly as possible, which shows that this news took them by surprise as much as anyone.

    Could Ante Milicic be the man to take over? He knows the setup, has a rapport with the players and is well entrenched in the annals of Australian Domestic Football, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on how you look at it.

    Clearly, the Heart’s formula for success involves getting as far away from the route one game plan that favours certain teams in the league, and with Milicic having minimal experience outside of Australia, perhaps hiring from within would be a step backwards in this case; unless, of course – the former Joe Marston Medal winner is a fast learner and Van’t Schip taught him well.

    So I’m not sure what the way forward for Melbourne Heart is – it seemed like a perfect fit with a respectable manager, but given his pedigree, it was sadly always a matter of time before he went back to Europe.

    I just thought it would be a couple more years down the track.

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    The Crowd Says (10)

    • February 1st 2012 @ 5:01pm
      Midfielder said | February 1st 2012 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

      Good read mate …. agreewith most of what you said…

    • February 1st 2012 @ 8:54pm
      TheEvilQ8 said | February 1st 2012 @ 8:54pm | ! Report

      Vant Schip was on over $700K per year. His results have included a very mediocre 8th, and if I were to prognosticate I predict Heart to finish 7th or 8th this season also.

      A young Australian coach, such as Milicic, would deliver the same, if not better results, but on 20% of the salary.

      Good riddance.

      • February 2nd 2012 @ 11:06am
        Roarchild said | February 2nd 2012 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        I also remember them stating that the expected the next coach to come from one of their assistants … this was their stated philosophy before they played their first ever game.

        Bottom line should look a lot better next year with a huge saving on the coach and probably at least one transfer fee received for one of their young guns.

    • February 1st 2012 @ 10:01pm
      Axelv said | February 1st 2012 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

      With NQF “2. Stuck in an area with little interest in the game.”

      Simply not true, North Queensland had impressive crowd figures for such a small town, you could be confusing them with Gold Coast? their crowds only dropped off in their final season when it was announced in December that their club will die.

      4 games in and you’ve already decided on Magilton’s capabilities because he is Northern Irish, bigot thinking.

      Van’t Schip is a very high pedigree coach and Heart will miss him badly, if they want to play an attractive style of football and be a successful team, goodluck to them but it’s possible that they will fail at both with their next coach,hopefully their fans are loyal enough (which they didn’t prove at Victory) to ride it out.

      • Roar Guru

        February 1st 2012 @ 10:16pm
        Matt Bungard said | February 1st 2012 @ 10:16pm | ! Report

        I wouldn’t say their crowds were ever impressive – the highest they EVER got was less than 9,000! This at the same Stadium the Cowboys have toppled 20k at on numerous occasions. No, they were not nearly as much of a joke fan-wise as GCU still are but that club was hemorrhaging money at an alarming rate…I wanted the Fury to succeed as much as anyone but it was simply not ever going to work without a more solid fanbase.

        And I don’t think I’m in the wrong for judging Magilton…my uncle (who I talk about football with more than anyone) is a massive QPR fan and had nothing but bad things to say about him – and given he’s coming from the lofty heights of assistant at Shamrock Rovers, I don’t think it’s too ‘bigoted’ of me to not expect total football from him.

        • February 2nd 2012 @ 2:24am
          Axelv said | February 2nd 2012 @ 2:24am | ! Report

          For a season and a half, the Fury weren’t too far behind Sydney FC’s crowds of last season. NQF had 6,340 in their first season, and they averaged 4802 last season until December (When the FFA made it clear they were not going allow Fury to renew contracts), they also did it without the help of derby fans. Sydney FC averaged 7,656 last season. For a town of 200,000 compared to a city of 5 million, I don’t think it’s too bad. And to say that it’s an area with little interest in the game I think is incorrect and disrespectful to Townesville and the Fury.

          And no disrespect to your uncle, but QPR go through managers faster than they change their underwear 😉

          I can also tell you that after Magilton’s time as manager at Ispwich and QPR, he has gotten his UEFA pro license, 1 tier above the FFA minimum. Before then he wasn’t qualified. Magilton got Ispwich to play attractive possession football while he only just went from player to coach. I’ve seen quite a few comments from Ispwich fans, and many of them that have a long memory actually realise how well he’s done with them. It’s way too early to make judgements on his capabilities, it will be interesting to see if he can turn the MV dressing room around, because right now they’re a bunch of losers that like nothing more than to concede late from stupid errors.

          • February 2nd 2012 @ 9:54am
            Nelson said | February 2nd 2012 @ 9:54am | ! Report

            Morwell Heart would love to have the crowd average that NQF had. If the FFA have the balls to give MV their deserved 2 home derbies next season, Heart will be in strife, even moreso if they had to pay Van’t Schip 700k on top of it.

            Magilton doesn’t have the players to play the brand of football he wants to, he’s said that publicly.

            • February 2nd 2012 @ 11:09am
              Roarchild said | February 2nd 2012 @ 11:09am | ! Report

              NQF were also expected to finish last in both seasons …meanwhile Sydney were the defending champions.

              It was a really bad time to be a start up team because there was little promotion, hopeless scheduling and the league as a whole was doing it tough.

              I really hope NQF get another shot down the line when the timing is better (i.e. they can get a decent stadium deal).

              • February 2nd 2012 @ 12:05pm
                Axelv said | February 2nd 2012 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

                +1 Roarchild.

                My only fear is that perhaps the FFA burnt the bridges in the that community, there could be many bitter and disgruntled fans that may not bother putting their heart into a team again should Far North Queensland get another chance.

    • February 2nd 2012 @ 2:23am
      Axelv said | February 2nd 2012 @ 2:23am | ! Report


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