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Fixing the Wanderers’ 'losing culture': Timing of ex-Mariners coach's sacking could be perfect for Western Sydney

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Expert
16th May, 2024
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With the breaking news emanating from Wanderland that Marko Rudan has departed the club due to personal reasons, the availability of former Mariners coach Nick Montgomery could not have come at a more perfect time for Western Sydney.

The former Central Coast mentor’s time at Hibernian in Scotland was a troubled one that ended on Wednesday. The team spent much of the season struggling in the mid-table of an absurd two-horse race of a league, in which coaches outside of Celtic and Rangers are generally on a hiding to nothing.

After his brilliant time at Gosford where Montgomery produced a long -waited championship for the region, he would have been mad not to take up an even greater challenge abroad where his skills as the key man at a European club were tested.

Whilst Hibs did not have a great season in 2023/24 and the coach, players and administrators will all have accusations of blame directed at them, the true downturn in fortunes probably lies at the feet of the collective and something Montgomery can hardly be forced to take the blame for in its entirety.

Nick Montgomery

Former Mariners coach Nick Montgomery. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

In essence, Australia knows just how good an operator the 42-year-old can be at the helm and it would be no surprise to see him quickly instated at the Wanderers, after Rudan quit suddenly in a mutually consented decision with the club.

Putting aside the emotion of the family illness lying at the heart of Rudan’s decision, and everyone wishes all the best to Rudan and his family, after years of frustration and dissatisfaction with performance under a series of coaches, the Wanderers should have the cross-hairs firmly focussed on the Leeds-born Montgomery.

A rather rudimentary joining of the dots does appear to make a whole lot of sense for the weakest of the Sydney-based clubs.

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If the Western Sydney brass has not already been on the phone and asked Montgomery to return to Australia to discuss a potential role as the manager capable of returning the Wanderers to semi-final respectability, they have simply not done their job.

Frankly, the club could do far worse.

Whilst the inception of the team and the almost immediate success that followed under Tony Popovic were impressive and sources of hope for the future, the plastic nature of much of the Wanderers’ supporter base was exposed at the first sign of trouble.

Sure, there are plenty of good folk out in the stands on a fortnightly basis to cheer on the red and black, yet thousands walked, citing over-policing, racism and stigmas, when in fact, the heart of the situation probably had a lot more to do with them than they would freely care to admit.

As coaches came and went and the quality of the football lessened, Rudan arrived in 2022, perceived as something of a potential saviour of the situation; a man with the spirit of the west in his veins and an ability to impart a siege mentality into a playing group that appeared to have lost deep confidence in itself.

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Rudan huffed and puffed, spat the dummy at times and eventually had the Wanderers playing the most stodgy of football, as they slumped down the 2023/24 A-League ladder after showing a brief sign of something better during the season prior.

In essence, Rudan talked a mighty good game, puffed his chest out when in the company of the media, yet failed to walk the walk when it came to producing the results on the pitch for which he was paid to achieve.

Western Sydney Wanderers coach Mark Rudan gestures from the sideline

Marko Rudan. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

There were moments during the current season when he did appear to be feeling the pressure and unsure of exactly how to reverse the results that were being dished out to his team. No doubt the personal issues with his mother’s health were playing a role in that insecurity.

Yet, from a pure footballing point of view, he is not the coach the Wanderers need. Bravado will only get the team so far and a more shrewd and attacking tactician such as Montgomery is a far more long-term and positive move for a club desperate to replace what has simply become a losing culture.

With Perth Glory also on the skids and the future of Alen Stajcic uncertain according to unconfirmed reports, he too would be an ideal replacement for Rudan should the club wish to install a coach with a similarly fluent understanding of the people of Sydney, as well as a superior tactical nous to that of Rudan.

The coaching merry-go-round never fails to deliver and Montgomery could well end up elsewhere in Europe, back in the A-League or unemployed.

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Yet if the Wanderers are keen to quickly about-face their fortunes, he could well be the man for the job.

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