How long till the fans see Red?
Adelaide United have now been through four coaches since 2010 and the club appears to have no clear vision or philosophy. I wonder how much more the fans will take?
Despite generally maintaining a high standards on the field, during a period in which the club has played in two finals series and two Asian Champions League campaigns, Adelaide United have now gone through four coaches since 2010.
What is about the club that causes such massive instability in the face of such positive on-field performances?
This is not about singing the praises or criticising of any individual coach; rather it is about examining how a club that is so successful on the pitch seems to lurch from crisis to crisis off the field.
When John Kosmina was appointed on a permanent basis in March 2012 after the short-lived Rini Coolen era, he was heralded by club chairman, Greg Griffin, as the man to take the club forward as a “passionate South Australian who had already taken the club to a premiership”. Griffin could also have added two ACL campaigns and a pre-season cup to the list.
In Kosmina-s own words at the time, he recognised the importance of the club being strong in its sense of identity:
"Whoever comes here next season needs to fit the mould in terms of the direction the club wants to take, rather than the club trying to fit the mould of the players… the great teams around the world have their own philosophy and players that go to those clubs fit that philosophy."
Here we are in January 2013. Kosmina has sensationally quit, citing a "lack of trust" at the club. In Kosmina-s own words:
"Fast forward 10 months, and we come to this. Before last weekend we had been first or second in the league and were recognised as a good football team.
"However, apart from survival, I can see no clear direction. There is no vision. Decision-making at management level is reactive and impulsive at best, and there is no consistency in managerial procedure.
"There is far too much whispering in corridors and around corners.”
Sound familiar? Let-s go back to February 2009 when Aurelio Vidmar was at the helm of the Reds. Political infighting was blamed during an astonishing post match attack after a four-nil loss to Victory.
He branded the performance a “disgrace”, saying there were “too many people with hidden agendas”, and he famously described Adelaide as “a pissant town - this club will never win anything until you get rid of that crap.”
The crap referred to being what Vidmar saw as back-biting and undermining in the Hindmarsh corridors, despite leading them 2008 ACL final, finishing equal top in 2007 and another pre season cup to boot.
What is most incredible about both of these incidents (we can all it three if you go back to Kosmina-s departure post Grand Final loss in 2007, but that-s another story...), is that both Vidmar and Kosmina left the club at a time when the team had experienced considerable recent success, whether in the A-League or Asia.
So, the prodigal son was re-appointed - a straight-talking, no-nonsense SA guy to sweep away all the negativity arising out of the Coolen situation.
And it seemed to work, at least on the pitch. Last week-s loss saw the Reds drop outside the top two for virtually the first time this season, and they have never been outside the top four. Not exactly reason enough for a call to panic stations based on results, surely?
But herein lies the rub. At Adelaide United, apparently they run a football club differently to most. Their decisions do not appear to be results driven - quite bizarre for any sports club.
So who is to blame for the current uncertainty? Certainly not the players. All they have ever done is be a good football team that has consistently been one of the best in the league and competitive in Asia.
So is it the coaches? Vidmar, Stubbins, Coolen and Kosmina. For this to occur four times despite positive results seems would seem to be too much of a coincidence and suggests that the problem lies elsewhere.
Taking the Coolen situation in isolation is instructive - how can a club appoint a coach on a long term contract after buying into the philosophy he has sold the board, only to decide they were wrong 10 months later? Are those the actions of a board that was well informed?
The current situation could not be in starker contrast to the period when Gordon Pickard was running the club as the "People-s Club" of SA. And it really was just that. Buses would be sent on match days to outlying areas as far as Port Pirie, two-and-a-half hours away from Adelaide.
Results were not always positive, but never once did the fans rail against the owners such was the genuine tight-knit nature of the club at that time. So many questions remain unanswered, here are just a few:
Does the club seriously expect fans and pundits to believe that such a passionate Adelaide Utd man as Kosmina would quit based on just a rumour?
How does the club start to really engage with the fans? If a club does not take a silent protest seriously, despite being second on the table, then their blinkers must be well and truly rusted on.
Where is the board getting its football advice from? Who is providing them with the necessary insights into the day-to-day goings-on in the dressing room and training park that are such an essential part of understanding the health of a club? Whoever it is, if anyone, is obviously doing a pretty poor job.
Who is selecting and then sacking coaches, and on what basis are these decisions being made? How can four year contracts be torn up just 10 months after the coach-s philosophy is hailed as being the way forward.
Who is making the decision to hire and fire players? Are the keys to the sweet shop being handed to one person, or is there some sort of overall plan in place that only a mad professor can work out the formula to?
And finally, and most importantly, does the club have a clear vision and philosophy, and if so, what is it? Melbourne Victory, Brisbane Roar, Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Heart are all examples of clubs where players are signed to fit the culture of the club, not the other way around.
Until these answers to these questions are honestly answered, free from spin and hyperbole, the club will continue to stumble and ultimately risk alienating the one thing that makes the club special and is the only reason it exists - the fans.