Coaching in Sydney is a Crook job

Coaching Sydney FC might just be the Hyundai A-League's version of a poisoned chalice and Branko Culina understands better than most just why Ian Crook quit.

The words were out of Branko Culina's mouth before he could reel them back in.

"Sydney FC are the Manchester United of the A-League," he declared at the 2007/8 season launch.


The reaction ranged from outright ridicule to stunned silence.

After a two draw-two loss start to Sydney FC's campaign, most were comparing the Sky Blues to Scunthorpe United, not Manchester.

Culina, despite overseeing a highly honourable Asian Champions League campaign, was punted just nine games into a two-year deal.

Five years on - and just days after Ian Crook became the sixth coach to depart Moore Park in eight seasons - Culina has his own theory on why the FC gig comes with trapdoor included.

"Take for example my comment about Man U. That came about because we were playing a home game and a few days out the ticket sales were slow," Culina explained.

"I thought we've got to do something to get people to this game.

"I made that comment in a bid to generate interest at the start of the season to get a headline.

"Nowadays the game is getting far greater exposure but I felt it was my responsibility to try and pump things up through the media."

Right there you have the essence of what makes coaching Sydney FC so different to any other gig in the A-League.

Sure, there is pressure on every gaffer in the competition. Just ask Ange Postecoglou.

But nowhere is the heat as intense as the Harbour City.

The Sky Blues are expected to win the league each and every year - and do it in style.

One eye is constantly on the scoreboard, the other on the attendance figure - there is no room for mid-table mediocrity.

"People got the wrong idea about the Man U comparison. People thought I was comparing us on football terms but that was the furthest thing from it," Culina continued.

"It was probably the expectation that I was trying to make people aware of.

"Some people in the media put this continual burden on Sydney by saying there's got to be this Barcelona-like style.

"There is always pressure on Sydney to get results and play good football. It's easier said than done."

In the end, that pressure was too intense for Crook.

He disliked the scrutiny and the extra-curricular activities demanded of him.

The Englishman was at home on the training ground, working with young players in relative anonymity.

Match days left him strangely empty and drained, almost devoid of emotion.

His health and family suffered as Crook questioned why he felt so flat at what should have been the highpoint of his coaching career.

Since giving it away, Crook is now sleeping better and can walk to the local shops without his cap pulled over his eyes for fear of being asked about Sydney's latest defeat.

Some coaches handle the 24-7 spotlight. Others despise it.

"The pressures on Sydney are greater than anywhere else in the A-League," Culina insisted.

"You become a public figure whether you like it or not.

"And you have to win the next game otherwise the crowds will drop off.

"There is always one eye on the scoreboard and the other on the attendance figure.

"I've been around football and loved it since I was seven but even I didn't enjoy the Sydney job towards the end.

"I was relieved when it ended so I can see where Ian is coming from."

As the search continues for the next man to place his derriere in the Sydney FC hot seat, Culina has a parting word of advice for Crook's successor.

"Forget about having a meal in a restaurant or a coffee at your favourite cafe or taking a phone call without Sydney FC being mentioned," he laughed.

"It's best to park your private life because this job will consume you, but hopefully not destroy you."