Heart have erred in letting Foxe trot
Honesty. Loyalty. Perspective. Understanding. Intelligence. Intuition. All qualities Hayden Foxe has in abundance.
Honesty. Loyalty. Perspective. Understanding. Intelligence. Intuition.
All qualities Hayden Foxe has in abundance. Funnily enough, they're same qualities Melbourne Heart need to develop in order to create the type of culture the club has been lacking. The pity is Foxe and the Heart have now parted ways, but then that's a measure of the man. John Aloisi was sacked. Foxe wasn't, but he still chose to go with him. In a country where full-time coaching jobs are in desperately short supply, Foxe walked away from his role as assistant because of his principles. The way he saw it, Melbourne Heart's woeful results were a shared responsibility, as he and Aloisi were fundamentally on the same page. It may be time-honoured practice in most major football countries that the no.2 follows the no.1 out the door, but the fact is we don't see it very often in the Hyundai A-League.
Nonetheless, the unheralded departure of Foxe goes down as another missed opportunity for a team which might be about to join New Zealand Knights as statistically the worst in A-League history. At times likes these, the team could do with the sort of honest virtues embodied by Foxe. And as we all know, the club itself is also in need of an identity.
Pressed on Fox Sports last weekend what exactly the Heart 'stood for', former player Josip Skoko drew a deep breath before eventually replying: 'Umm, I've got to say it's sort of a family club.'' Not exactly a convincing endorsement from someone employed as a Heart ambassador.
Depending on your interpretation, a 'family' club could be construed as a weakness as much as a strength. Certainly there's a legitimate view that the Heart's biggest problem over their short journey is that they've been way too nice.
In a result-orientated business, accountability - both in the dressing room and the front office - seems to have been in short supply. Foxe, like Ante Milicic before him, possesses the sort of strong-willed personality which might have given the team, and the club, what it's been missing. A hard-nosed approach. Now we'll never know.
It's no co-incidence both Foxe and Milicic have been heavily influenced by Tony Popovic, arguably the meanest hombre we've got in the coaching ranks. And when you look what Western Sydney Wanderers have achieved in half the time, it's hard not to wonder what might have been for the Heart if their decision-makers had chosen the boot room as the best place to build the culture of the club.
As it is, we're about to find out if a change of ownership brings a change of direction. The word is the new owners will be publicly unveiled the day after the home game against Newcastle Jets, and it will interesting to see what message they will take to the world.
Living in the shadow of Melbourne Victory - especially without a defined geographical base - isn't easy, but if the Heart truly aspire to become a successful club in their own right, then they have to change their tune. Being a 'development' club - which was their original charter - won't cut it in a market dominated by the AFL and, in football terms, saturated by the Victory.
No, what Melbourne Heart need to do is convince those fans they have, and those they wish to embrace, that they're a serious club with serious ambitions. The only way to do that is to get the right people involved. Losing the likes of Milicic, and Foxe, doesn't help.
NOTE: Melbourne Heart has contacted footballaustralia.com.au disputing the basis of this opinion piece, in that both Ante Milicic and Hayden Foxe left the club of their own accord.