What does it say about Melbourne City as a football club if they retain the services of Warren Joyce as their coach for another season?
I should preface this by stating it’s not intended as a pile-on of Joyce.
Sometimes when I write a strongly worded column or pose some questions about the A-League, certain readers assume that every word I’ve written is a staunchly held personal belief.
Most of the time I’ve simply proposed a topic that I believe needs to broached – whether I feel particularly strongly about the subject or not.
And I must admit I’m fairly ambivalent about Joyce’s tenure as City tactician.
Maybe that’s not necessarily a good thing?
I’m also aware that plenty of decent judges of character rate Joyce’s coaching skills highly. Including, all evidence would suggest, Melbourne City.
Still, it came as a surprise when The World Game journalist David Lewis suggested late last week that City were considered offering Joyce a one-year contract extension.
Why would they do that?
In almost two seasons in Melbourne, Joyce has overseen two trips to the finals.
And City, it’s worth remembering, were 1-0 up away at the Newcastle Jets in last season’s semi-final with just over half an hour left to play.
Had it not been for Riley McGree’s miraculous scorpion kick – and how ironic that McGree currently plies his trade for City – Joyce could have led his side into an A-League grand final at the first time of asking.
So why is that the former Manchester United reserve team manager remains the most maligned coach in the A-League?
We can start with his personality. No colourful Markus Babbel or Marco Kurz, or brooding Tony Popovic or Mark Rudan is he.
He’s not quick with a sound bite or witty response like Kevin Muscat or Ernie Merrick either.
So what kind of coach is he? A disciplinarian for starters.
The jettisoning of Tim Cahill, Neil Kilkenny and Bruno Fornaroli is proof of that.
Does he promote youth?
Nathaniel Atkinson, Lachlan Wales and more recently Ramy Najjarine have all enjoyed decent game time under Joyce, while McGree was signed on loan from Belgian side Club Brugge.
But plenty of A-League clubs have given kids a chance over the years.
And Joyce’s ongoing tenure as City coach gets to the heart – pun intended – of what the club wants to be.
Are they a development club? Do they exist solely to on-sell players like Aaron Mooy and Daniel Arzani?
Are they in the entertainment business? Is their style of football easy on the eye?
Or can they pose a legitimate threat to the city’s resident juggernaut Victory as the biggest club in Melbourne?
Because at the moment it’s not really clear that City are any of those things.
And it’s hard to see how extending Joyce’s contract – when he’s almost universally disliked by the club’s dwindling fan base – might solve that.
Strange as it may seem, there are plenty of people behind closed doors who believe that City’s presence – and influence – is vital for the A-League’s future.
And it’s not like City are the only club with some big decisions to make.
Brisbane Roar’s 6-1 humiliation at the hands of the Newcastle Jets on Saturday was simply not good enough, and it hasn’t been good enough all season.
To think the team could send a loyal servant like Matt McKay off with a display like that simply beggars belief.
If the club are to announce a new coach next week, they’d better hope they’ve made the right decision.
Because the first thing the new coach will need to do is try and win back some of the disgruntled fans who’ve decided enough is enough.
Ironically that’s the sort of passion Melbourne City’s fan base could probably do with.
They arguably didn’t deserve to lose 3-2 to the Wellington Phoenix yesterday, but the bigger question is whether Warren Joyce deserves to keep his job.