MAKE the finals or you’re sacked.
Judging on the bloody aftermath of this season, it appears that’s the brutal ultimatum driving the agendas of every A-League club.
Despite remarkably different situational factors, the Perth Glory, Western Sydney Wanderers, Central Coast Mariners and Wellington Phoenix have all arrived at the same decision — to part with their head coach.
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(41 points, 4th)
(39 points, 5th)
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While Kenny Lowe enjoyed a considerably longer tenure in the West than was afforded of the likes of Josep Gombau and Darije Kalezic – as well as a resigning Paul Okon – the common denominator appears to be a punishment for missing out on the business end of the season.
These clubs are all dealing with incoming new management — as for the rest of the clubs in the league? They’re focused on finals football.
Perth Glory are a club with an identity crisis. In four and half years under Lowe, the club won a single A-League final despite assembling a squad bursting with talent — both local and international.
The boss had to pay the price eventually, but the club now faces a curious decision on their future direction and identity, and will need to appoint a coach tasked with spearheading a new era.
The crux of which will no doubt stem from prolonged success, with participation in the finals the first step towards that goal.
Meanwhile, over in Western Sydney, a completely contrary dilemma has emerged.
Just 24 hours before the Glory’s announcement, the Wanderers unceremoniously parted ways with Josep Gombau via a three-line media release. As many have noted, it appeared a doomed partnership from the outset, with the Spaniard failing to align with the values so deeply instilled within the club by inaugural manager Tony Popovic.
One win separated Gombau’s team from a berth in the finals, and the general consensus suggests he may have been granted another season at the helm had his side beaten Adelaide in Round 27 to beat Brisbane Roar to sixth place.
In contrast to the Glory, the Wanderers are looking for a coach who will continue their short and successful history, with an emphasis on the passion which has laid the foundation for their immediate achievement.
It was just the second time in the club’s history that they’ve missed the finals, and his successor will be tasked with restoring the club to the top six and beyond — seemingly a requisite achievement for the individual in charge of the a club who simply expect success, largely because they haven’t enjoyed any different.
Further down the table, the Nix and Mariners are grappling with a significantly gloomier predicament. Another season of disappointment will lead to yet another attempted overhaul of staff and personnel in the hope of a rebuild.
The Mariners culled seven first team players this week, with new boss Mike Mulvey free to reshape his playing squad after they finished in the bottom three for the fourth consecutive season — and their second wooden spoon in three seasons.
Stuck in a cycle of underachievement, Mulvey is the man tasked with turning around a club and his record of never missing the finals in three seasons with the Roar was no doubt instrumental in his appointment.
The Nix are yet to appoint a head coach for next season and have 12 players off contract following a campaign which they spent largely rooted to the foot of the ladder, consigning them to a third year on the trot without finals football.
Four clubs, four completely different scenarios — the same result.
The finals are important, and participation in the knockout rounds appears to be a barometer for the success of a coach in the A-League.
Four coaches have paid the price for failing to guide their teams to the post-season, and they won’t be the last to do so.
It remains to be seen whether their former employers will be rewarded for their decisions with success next season.