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Opinion

Why would anyone want to be an A-League coach?

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Expert
24th November, 2019
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1230 Reads

When Melbourne City midfielder Javier Cabrera swung over a cross at Bankwest Stadium on Friday, Wanderers coach Markus Babbel should have run onto the pitch and headed it clear.

It’s an absurd suggestion of course, so why are we so quick to blame coaches every time something goes wrong?

There’s no doubt the VAR’s decision to award a penalty in the 55th minute of Western Sydney’s 3-2 defeat to Melbourne City on Friday night changed the complexion of the game, just like there’s no doubt Babbel will be in hot water for speaking so candidly about the call.

And while it’s clear VAR decisions are turning A-League fans off the competition, it’s also clear Football Federation Australia are unwilling to do anything about it.

They’re eager to curry favour with FIFA for Australia’s various World Cup ambitions – including our bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup – so there’s no way they’ll criticise one of FIFA’s pet projects even if it costs the A-League fans in the stands and viewers on TV.

Markus Babbel

(Nigel Owen/Action Plus via Getty Images)

But maybe Melbourne City’s game-changing spot kick isn’t the best way to make the point.

Robbie Fowler is seventh on the list of all-time Premier League goal scorers, so when youngster Jordan Courtney-Perkins failed to convert a first-half chance in Brisbane Roar’s 2-1 defeat to the Phoenix in Wellington, perhaps Fowler should have injected himself into proceedings and shown him how it’s done.

Or when Jay O’Shea slalomed through the defence before firing high over the crossbar. Or when Aiden O’Neill thundered a skidding half-volley just wide of the far post.

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Can you spot the theme here?

Marco Kurz is under the most pressure after Melbourne Victory’s 3-1 loss to his former club Adelaide United at a packed Coopers Stadium, but it wasn’t Kurz who failed to shut down Michael Maria for Adelaide’s second goal.

Nor was it Kurz who opted not to close down Kristian Opseth for Adelaide’s opener or track the in-form Riley McGree not once but twice, allowing the suspended Olyroos star to ultimately decide the game.

But it will be Kurz who gets the blame.

Marco Kurz

(Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Perhaps that’s as it should be. After all, coaches are figureheads paid to make decisions that affect the outcome of matches.

Maybe that’s why Roar coach Robbie Fowler singled out two of his regular starters in Tom Aldred and Macaulay Gillesphey over a couple of glaring defensive lapses in Brisbane’s loss at Westpac Stadium.

Fowler has largely avoided pointing his finger at players for good or bad so far this season, but there’s probably only so many times you can throw yourself on a live grenade.

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And the test for Fowler will surely come on Saturday afternoon when his Roar side host the Central Coast Mariners at Suncorp Stadium.

He’s already shown his willingness to make changes to his starting XI – see Brisbane’s rotating wing-back situation for proof – but five points from six games has left the Roar fans wanting more.

And that’s pretty much the nature of football fandom worldwide.

Only one team can ever be crowned champion, which generally leaves fans of every other club looking on with envy.

And in Europe, where managers are paid millions and accept that they’ll be sacked no matter what their results, that’s probably a decent trade-off.

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But as much as I’m not exactly crying into my cornflakes over the plight of A-League coaches – they sure as hell get paid a lot more than me – I sometimes wonder if they don’t occasionally cop the short end of the stick.

When teams win trophies we’re quick to laud the players for their on-field performances.

Lose a few games, though, and it’s invariably the coach who’s the first name on the chopping block.

That’s football for you. It does make you wonder, though: who on earth would want to be an A-League coach?