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Grow up Corica: Sydney FC coach in childish act towards Sky Blue legend Ninkovic

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8th May, 2023
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Sydney FC coach Steve Corica’s order to remove a conciliatory Milos Ninkovic from the victors’ dressing room on Saturday night after the A-League Elimination Final, was as childish, petty and immature as it comes in the world of sport.

Corica is obviously a fan of Liverpool legend Bill Shankly. To the Scottish-born coach who guided the Reds to promotion in the 1960s, won three league titles, two FA Cups and a UEFA Cup in 1972/73, football was a thing to be consumed all day long; lived, breathed and become engrossed in, at the expense of everything else in life.

For Shankly, his performances as both player and coach defined him as a man, such was his total obsession with the beautiful game. Across an astonishing 1,190 matches, Shankly forged a coaching reputation that would eventually see him consistently mentioned in dispatches when the greatest managers of all time were discussed.

Perhaps Shankly’s most recounted contribution to the game is in the form of a paraphrased line that is often used to explain just how much football means to people. Whilst the sentence “Football is not a matter of life and death, it is much more important than that” may not be precisely what the Liverpool great said, its spirit and core do represent his total commitment to the game.

However, Corica’s adherence to the sentiment and disrespect towards Ninkovic completely crossed the line on Saturday night.

After Sydney FC found two second-half goals to topple the Wanderers in the elimination final, hot heads were scattered across the field come the final siren. Coaches Marko Rudan and Corica have history and wisely kept their distance, whilst Sydney defender Rhyan Grant gave some lip and fired up a Wanderers bench that quickly rose for the fight.

As is often the case in Sydney Derbies, it was all a little bit childish, lacking in class and grace and not the best expression of worthy combatants respecting each other after the contest.


Instead, things inflamed further in the most unlikely of ways, when Ninkovic slipped into the dressing room of his former teammates to say congratulations and wish them all the best for the upcoming two-legged semi-final against Melbourne City. After seven seasons in Sky Blue, the Serbian international showed genuine class by popping in to reconnect with players that he has shared blood with in the past, felt the highs and the lows and become close friends.

Then in the blink of an eye, Ninkovic was forcibly removed from the dressing room, it appears, once spotted by Corica.

After the 38-year-old’s departure from the East to the West in 2022, it is obvious that bridges have been burned, certainly those extending between Ninkovic and his former coach.

Looking to extend his stay in Sky Blue, Ninkovic had felt insulted by the terms offered to him during the negotiations of what would most likely be his final professional contract. The club was not prepared to meet the player’s demands and wishes, Ninkovic went public about what he felt was appalling treatment from a club to which he had given so much, and weeks later, he was a Wanderer.

Corica stated the obvious in the elimination-final post-game, “We have issues, but that is between me and him.”
Yes, that certainly does appear to be the case. However, I’d suggest the issues to which Corica refers might actually be more significant on his side of the fence.

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)


Ninkovic’s gesture after what became a fiery clash during the second half, with plenty on the line, was a perfect opportunity for Corica to perhaps bury the hatchet and offer a simple handshake to a disappointed man who displayed great humanity in extending his to former teammates.

The animosity behind the Ninkovic deal is nothing new to football. Some players will leave clubs on bad terms. Sometimes, the players themselves will have unrealistic expectations and in other circumstances, clubs will have treated them far from fairly considering the service they have given.

The exact and full details of the Ninkovic versus Sydney FC saga will probably come out in the wash down the track, yet for now, the parties involved are the only two fully aware of them. Ninkovic appears to be happy to move on and recognise the friendships and relationships forged during his time at the club, even in the depths of disappointment. Corica, whilst glowing in victory, showed little class and like a vindictive child, threw his toys from the cot at the sight of Ninkovic in the Sydney room.

Perhaps he needs to be reminded that his former Serbian star was upset at the end of the 2021/22 season, not because he was unhappy and wanted to leave, but because he had never pictured himself playing for any other A-League team.

The club and Ninkovic simply could not make it work and it appears almost everyone in Sky Blue has now moved on. Except for the coach that is.