Mehmet’s sacking means no more excuses

by Michael Huguenin on Jan 06, 2012

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Mehmet Durakovic’s career as Melbourne Victory’s manager finished today. It only lasted 199 days.

“After 14 games the club is in a position that isn’t acceptable and change is required,” Melbourne Victory’s chairman, Anthony Di Pietro, announced today.

But now that Durakovic is gone, the spotlight turns to others.

Some will argue that Durakovic didn’t get enough time or that he suffered because he took over a squad he hadn’t brought together himself but neither of these arguments really holds much weight.

Before Melbourne Victory confirmed Durakovic as manager the club had already signed Tando Velaphi, Jean Carlos Solorzano, Marco Rojas and Isaka Cernak for the new season. The Victory had also extended the contracts of veterans Matthew Kemp and Tom Pondeljak just before sacking former team boss Ernie Merrick. Only four signings were made during Durakovic’s stint as manager including that of Harry Kewell.

But Durakovic was still involved when the earlier signings were made. In fact, the former youth team coach was basically in charge of the team from March when he took over as caretaker coach during Melbourne’s Asian Champions League (ACL) campaign. It’s hard to argue that he wouldn’t have had some involvement in player recruitment.

On top of that, Durakovic had plenty of time to mould the squad and work out which players to use. Remember this is a squad that has generally been successful and that has been significantly strengthened. Durakovic generally had the cattle and it was the former Socceroo’s decision not to sign Adrian Madaschi to strengthen Victory’s central defensive stocks after Kevin Muscat’s retirement. Madaschi went on to star for Melbourne Heart on a short-term contract.

Others have argued that Kewell’s late arrival negatively affected Durakovic’s preparations for this season. The problem with this argument is that the entire team is struggling, not just Kewell. After the ACL and a full preseason, the team should be used to Durakovic’s tactics by now. Plus how difficult can it really be to include Australia’s best ever player in your side? Melbourne has been completely disjointed and has serious troubles in midfield. This is not because of Kewell’s late arrival. This points to poor tactics, which is Durakovic’s responsibility.

In the end, Durakovic led Melbourne to its worst ever start to an A-League season. The Big V only won four matches (three in the A-League) under the former NSL stalwart. Described today as “a wonderful person” by Di Pietro, Durakovic was clearly a nice bloke out of his depth. It’s hard to argue against his sacking.

But now it’s time for others at the club to take responsibility.

On paper, Victory’s squad may not be the best in the league but it’s not far off. Melbourne should be much higher on the ladder than its current position of eighth. A team that can put Kewell, Archie Thompson and Carlos Hernandez on the park at one time should score more goals (not to mention Solorzano, Danny Allsopp and Marco Rojas also being available). With a former Socceroo in goals and A-League veterans in most positions, Victory should be more successful and, if nothing else, more determined. Week after week, Melbourne’s players have dished out insipid performances. It’s time for the players to step up.

There isn’t enough time before tomorrow’s match against Newcastle to fix all the tactical problems. But there’s no excuse for the Victory not to put in 100 percent effort against the Jets. Melbourne’s supporters should expect nothing less. The players can’t hide behind their coach anymore.

The majority of responsibility, however, lies with Melbourne Victory’s board. They picked Durakovic after apparently scouring the globe for the best candidate. Melbourne’s chairman Di Pietro admitted at today’s press conference that the board got carried away watching Durakovic’s performances in the ACL. But let’s face it, this was a youth coach with a questionable record and he only led Melbourne to one victory in the ACL. It’s hard to understand how he was the best option.

Di Pietro claimed today that his board is “not about quick fix solutions”. They now need to back up that statement. Di Pietro and his board need to ensure that they get it right when they select an interim gaffer and, eventually, a full time manager.

Muscat will sit in the coach’s seat against Newcastle tomorrow but, in a sign that the board has at least some good sense, he won’t be considered for the interim role. Muscat is not ready and whoever comes in will need to ensure the former Victory captain knows that he’s an assistant and nothing more.

Victory’s chairman visibly squirmed at today’s press conference when he was asked how Melbourne supporters could believe in the board’s ability to select the right man after getting it so badly wrong with Durakovic and Football Director Francis Awaratife. That’s why external experts should be brought in to run the selection process.

Melbourne needs a highly experienced and highly confident manager who will build a system at the club and won’t allow anyone to get in the way of success on the field. To get someone like that the Victory need experienced football people to advise and steer the whole process. Those people are not on the current board.

Success for the rest of the season, finals and positive recruitment for next season will mean that most supporters will forgive and forget. Another failure and Di Pietro will have no other option than to fall on his sword.

No more excuses.