Doing the math on Magilton

by Sebastian Hassett on Jan 12, 2012

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Press conferences in Gosford are unlike any other in the A-League. They are small, intimate affairs, and the press are so close to the coaches and players that you know what they thinking before they've even opened their mouth.

So it was with Mehmet Durakovic. He walked into his last ever press conference flanked by Victory's usual over-sized entourage - assistant coach Kevin Muscat even tagged along to sit at the back of the room - but it was if he was already an outcast. He looked in a world of pain after losing 2-0 to a rampant Central Coast.

There can be no worse feeling in football than being the dead man walking. Durakovic never starred in front of the press like he did so effortlessly as a player, and never seemed comfortable giving much away. But this was a hollow five minutes in front of the cameras and microphones. His answers were bland and empty. I couldn't get much out of him, nor could anyone else.

The room became awkward. There were no more questions worth asking, for the responses weren't worth reporting. He was at the end and there was nothing left to say. When the axe fell 36 hours later upon the team's return to Victoria, few were shocked.

I feel for Mem. He's one of the good guys. He cares his players and he cares about Melbourne Victory. He just wasn't ready to be a senior coach just yet - or at least not as coach of the league's only supernova.

The move to appoint Jim Magilton was swift and precise. Do the math and you'll realise that Magilton departed Heathrow before Durakovic was told, which may not be the best form from the Victory board. That said, it was an untenable situation, and they needed a manager prepared to step into the breach.
First things first. Magilton is not Mourinho, or even McLaren. But he is a manager with a decent record at a decent level with decent clubs. He's got a lot more runs on the board than some of the other names being bandied about.

Is he the glamorous option befitting a club like Melbourne? Probably not. He's got a reputation as a man who will scrap and eek to get the best from limited resources, which doesn't quite fit with the image of a club dreaming of being the most powerful in football's most populous confederation.

That said, it's been a little while since Australian clubs took a chance on a manager who came through the English system. Unimpressed by the experiences of Terry Butcher, Steve McMahon and Richard Money, we've been reluctant to give them another go. Magilton seems more well-versed in management than those bigger names, soaking up some good advice of his earlier career travels.

As a player, he started his career under Kenny Dalglish as an apprentice at Liverpool before spending time under Alan Ball and Graeme Souness at Sheffield Wednesday, with much of his stint at Ipswich under the tutelage of George Burley and Joe Royle. That's a reasonable crop of knowledge he'll have inherited from over 15 years in the game.

It's extremely difficult to predict how he'll go, for we're still finding out the strength of the competition. Has it evolved beyond the technical and tactical nuances of the English Championship? Most will swiftly say it has, but Magilton's appointment will be a good test.

I think that, in the short-term, he'll have a positive impact on Melbourne, in the same way John Kosmina has had a tremendous impact on Adelaide United. They are men who can galvanise the dressing room, heal rifts within the team and the get everyone in the club pulling in the same direction. For the rest of the season, that's something that bodes well for Victory.

They've certainly got the players to compete for honours this season and while they won't make top two, they could be a genuine contender if they can sneak into the top four and nail a home final.
Like Kosmina, I'm unsure if Magilton is the right man for the long-term. Only time will tell if the Ulsterman has what it takes to be a successful A-League manager. Either way, he needs to make his impact swiftly if he wants to get the club's legions of fans onside.