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A-League sack race more than a game

by Paddy Higgs on Dec 14, 2011

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If it was Football Manager, the word 'insecure' would be attached to the names of several A-League coaches.

While the makers of the FM series strive to make the game as realistic as possible, real life is seldom that simple.

But one thing is for sure - doubt hovers over more than half of the league's top men, adding further intrigue to what has already been a riveting A-League season.

Betting on coaching sackings is a popular pastime in Europe. None of the major Australian outlets have a market on the A-League's sack race yet, but who would be leading if they did?

The axing of Branko Culina from the Newcastle Jets on the eve of the new season came as a shock; the next to join him in the job queue may be somewhat more predictable.

Adelaide United:
Having assembled a squad many tipped could potentially challenge the Brisbane Roar, it has not taken long for United's season to disassemble under Rini Coolen.
The Dutchman off-loaded a host of long-time players in order to shape his own side, but United have picked up just 10 points from as many games this campaign.

Crowds are dwindling quick and media have been barred from some training sessions in an indication of just how dire the situation at the club is becoming.

The only thing redder than United's shirts may be those inside the club's boardroom, with Coolen just one season into a four-year deal.

Gold Coast United:
Irascible, charismatic and sometimes plain old crazy; love him or loathe him, the A-League would be a duller place without Miron Bleiberg.
But with GCU rock bottom of the league and four points adrift from ninth-placed Adelaide United, unemployment may soon be something with which the Israeli must soon contend.

Gone are the big names like Jason Culina and Shane Smeltz. Gone too, it seems, are the club's finals chances.

Bleiberg is reputed to have a sound relationship with club owner Clive Palmer, but he has much work to do if he is to ensure his tenure at the club does not go the same way.

Melbourne Victory:
One got the feeling Mehmet Durakovic was content with the balance of his Melbourne Victory squad. Then some bloke named Kewell became available, and everything changed.

With Kewell's signing, the expectations on the rookie coach's team doubled. Victory have tasted victory just twice this campaign, and many are now questioning if Durakovic has has what it takes to shoulder them.

The former Socceroo has needed to continually reiterate it is he who holds the reins at the club, and remains well liked among the media.
But it is results - not popularity - on which his future will inevitably be decided.

Perth Glory:
Different season, same story. Like the 2010/11 campaign, Perth Glory started this season in hot form.

But a run of poor results has yet again undermined Glory's finals ambitions, and the knives are being sharpened for coach Ian Ferguson.

Glory fans are sick of waiting for the halcyon days of the National Soccer League to return.

Sooner, rather than later, is surely the message for Ferguson. Having been handed the funds to sign the likes Smeltz, former Manchester United midfielder Liam Miller and goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, time is certainly of the essence.

So who will fall first? The above quartet are, of course, hardly the only coaches under pressure.

There are doubts over the tenures of Melbourne Heart coach John van 't Schip and Viteslav Lavicka at Sydney FC at season's end, though both seem safe for now.

But neither club nor coach have committed past the current campaign, and much will hinge on whether their seasons’ extend past Week 27.

Secure are the jobs of Ange Postecoglou at Brisbane Roar and Graham Arnold at Central Coast Mariners, with only the lure of overseas to perhaps pry them from their posts in the foreseeable future.

Wellington Phoenix re-signed Rickie Herbert in November, while Gary van Egmond can rest easy for now, given he is just seven games into his second stint at the Newcastle Jets.

Fans can often be too hasty in calling for sackings, perhaps forgetting that it is the livelihood of coaches - not just their teams - at stake.

Unlike Football Manager, one cannot just re-start a new career.

But sack speculation is a scrutiny that comes with such high-profile roles.
It all creates an intriguing side-show to the A-League season - as if we needed anything else.