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Opinion

The A-League needs more coaches like Carl Robinson

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10th January, 2021
25

Carl Robinson’s birthplace was recently voted the happiest place in Wales, which seems important to note since Robinson is perhaps a happier person than we give him credit for.

If there’s one thing the A-League needs, it’s more coaches like Robinson.

The Welshman has brought all the brooding intensity of Hannibal Lecter to Australia with the added bonus that he can actually coach.

And when it comes to leaving clubs in contentious circumstances, Robinson knows a thing or two about it.

When New York Red Bulls hammered Toronto FC 4-1 at a packed BMO Field in August 2010 it was Robinson himself who nodded home New York’s fourth goal.

Rather than celebrate, the much-travelled Welshman looked embarrassed to have scored, with the goal coming against a Toronto side for whom Robinson was twice voted MVP of the season.

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At the end of the game Robinson told a Canadian reporter, “Sometimes it takes a big man to walk away, and that’s what I did.

“There’s no bitterness by me at all with how things ended here.”

Sound familiar? This is a man who does things by design.

So while we don’t know the full reasons of why Robinson chose to walk away from the Newcastle Jets after just 11 games as coach, it feels safe to assume he knew exactly what he was doing when he left the Hunter.

And on the basis of Western Sydney’s 2-1 win over Newcastle on Friday night, Robinson has made a smart decision.

The scoreline didn’t necessarily do the visitors justice, because when Nicolai Mueller blasted home a swerving long-range effort in the 25th minute, the Wanderers were all over the Jets.

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Sadly, but with an air of predictable inevitability, Mueller’s spectacular sonntagsschuss was ruled out by VAR because striker Simon Cox had strayed offside by a blade of grass in the build-up to the goal.

“I think it’s probably going to be play on,” said Fox Sports commentator Andy Harper after Mueller’s early goal-of-the-season candidate.

“I think it’s going to be taken off,” replied Brenton Speed, proving once again that the introduction of video technology has done nothing to remove doubt from the game.

Which was a point rammed home by Macarthur’s 1-1 draw with Wellington Phoenix on Saturday, when Phoenix midfielder Alex Rufer was sent off following VAR intervention amid genuinely baffling scenes.

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At first glance it looked like Macarthur midfielder Denis Genreau had gone studs-first into Rufer’s ankle, causing the Phoenix man to wince in pain and close his eyes as he hit the deck.

Yet Kris Griffiths-Jones clearly saw something different in the VAR booth, because despite Rufer looking like the player who’d been fouled, he was handed a red card for violent conduct for lashing out and tripping Genreau after the tackle.

It looked at worse like a complete accident – the sort of coming together you see dozens of times in any game – but it didn’t stop referee Stephen Lucas from reaching into his back pocket for a red card following the VAR’s intervention.

Phoenix general manager David Dome has since tweeted that he spoke to the A-League’s “refs boss” – who would be Strebre Delovski – and was informed that both the decision to refer Rufer’s challenge and punish it with a red card were wrong.

But that’s scant consolation for a Phoenix side that saw Macarthur equalise less than five minutes later.

It’s a shame we have to keep talking about dodgy VAR decisions, because there are better narratives to focus on.

Like Carl Robinson’s return to the Hunter as Western Sydney’s latest coach.

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The former Welsh international knows all about trying to grow the game in non-traditional football markets, and with his intense persona and savvy media responses he played his role in building up Friday night’s clash to perfection.

Love him or loathe him, the A-League needs more coaches like Robinson.

When it comes to marketing the competition, a headline-generator on the sidelines is hardly a bad thing.