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Opinion

Carl Robinson talks a good game, but how do we rate his coaching?

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Expert
16th May, 2021
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The last four A-League titles have all been won by homegrown coaches, so is Western Sydney’s habit of signing big names on the basis of overseas experience costing them where it counts?

Andy Keogh’s second goal was the talk of the town in Perth Glory’s 5-1 thrashing of the Wanderers on Sunday night, with the Irish striker bagging four after previously going scoreless for the entire season.

Keogh lobbed Wanderers keeper Daniel Margush from 40 yards to nab his second before halftime, with the veteran grabbing two more after the break to celebrate his birthday in style.

Glory looked up for it from the get-go at HBF Park, and the difference between the two teams was perhaps best illustrated by the opening goal.

Not many opponents would let Diego Castro stroll forward in acres of space, yet the Spaniard had all the time in the world to pick a pass for Kosuke Ota. And despite the Japanese fullback being one of the most accurate crossers in the A-League, Tate Russell didn’t exactly hurtle towards Ota in an attempt to shut him down.

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Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that once Ota crossed the ball it was Keogh who ghosted in between Patrick Ziegler and Mark Natta to head home the opener.

Five minutes in and the Wanderers were already a goal behind. It was the ninth time this season they’ve conceded inside the opening 20 minutes.

That’s surely worth scrutinising for a slightly left-field reason, namely that Carl Robinson is one of the best talkers in the A-League.

By that I don’t mean Robinson is a great communicator – although I personally think he is. You can tell he has years of media experience every time he does a piece to camera.

What I mean is that whenever things go wrong for the Wanderers, as they’ve done frequently this season, Robinson has a habit of speaking very forcefully and directly about those problems.

What’s he saying when he does so? The usual platitudes.

But the impression one gets after Robinson has finished talking is that he’s a coach with presence and gravitas and a force of personality that’s strong enough to inspire confidence.

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Carl Robinson

(Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

And I just wonder if Western Sydney’s football department hasn’t signed at least a few of their coaches on the ability to talk a good game.

You could argue the club tried to go back to their roots by appointing Jean-Paul de Marigny in 2020, but his hard-nosed approach lasted only 12 matches.

But in Josep Gombau and particularly Markus Babbel, Western Sydney handed over the reins to coaches as quick with a soundbite as they were at finding solutions on the pitch.

That’s not to denigrate foreign coaches on the basis of their passport. The last one to win a championship was Guillermo Amor, who ironically downed Tony Popovic and his Wanderers side to win the 2016 decider.

But when the next three A-League coaches to claim the title have been Graham Arnold, Kevin Muscat and Steve Corica, it’s hard not to wonder if recruiting coaches predominately on the basis of CVs polished overseas isn’t costing the Wanderers in the short term.

Currently the top six positions are all filled by homegrown coaches, although Melbourne City obviously improved out of sight under Frenchman Erick Mombaerts last season.

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And it could equally be argued that Melbourne Victory and the Newcastle Jets have struggled all season under the likes of the recently axed Grant Brebner and Craig Deans, two coaches who know the A-League intimately.

Robinson of course still has time to turn things around and could even be crowned champion at the end of the finals series.

It’s hard to see that happening on the basis of Sunday night’s performance though.

The Wanderers thought they’d pulled off a coup by landing Robinson from the Jets at the start of the season, and so did I.

He talks a good game. But Wanderers fans are entitled to wonder when the team’s actions will start speaking louder than Robinson’s words.

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