Stability for stability's sake

by Sebastian Hassett on Feb 04, 2012

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About 20 metres from where I'm sitting right now, and only a few hours before, Vitezslav Lavicka's tenure as head coach of Sydney FC was brought to an end.

It's been a long time coming. I blogged about it on this site in the pre-season, an article that brought quite a rebuke from the club at the time, it must be said. But let's be honest - this was a relationship that was never going to last beyond this season.

I'm disappointed for 'Vitja' personally, because he is the nicest and most humble fellow you'd ever like to meet. He hasn't got a bad word to say about anyone, be they players, coaches, administrators, fans, from his club or not. It's genuine too, and for that, he has my respect.

However, it became abundantly clear last season that while Sydney had done marvellously well to win the title in 2009-10, the A-League had rapidly evolved. Call it the Brisbane Effect, but you can draw a line in the post-season after that grand final to find when the seeds of revolution were planted.

Unfortunately for Lavicka, Sydney didn't evolve and keep pace as we all thought they would. They didn't even tread water - they went backwards at a million miles an hour, failing to win one of their first ten games in the season after their championship triumph. They then barely fired a shot in Asia, and had it not been for a miraculous last-gasp win in Shanghai, they'd have gone winless, too.

This year was a difficult one for Lavicka. He was on borrowed time from the moment the club first considered his position 13 months ago. Signings were made behind his back - the acquisition of Juho Makela against the coach's wishes remains one of the strangest bits of business I've come across - and strings were pulled when he didn't necessarily agree.

You got the feeling this was a compromise season. The club was so hell bent on having stability that they ended up opting to have it just for stability's sake. That's never a healthy place to be. They handed out a contract to Lavicka for a further season that, in all truth, should probably never have been handed out. It's my understanding that he took quite a pay cut and it's not surprising. He knew the writing was on the wall and so did his family - they went back to Prague. They'll all be reunited in the next few months.

That said, Lavicka didn't want to go. It's not right to say he was pushed but he was smart enough to know he wouldn't be offered a new deal. You could see that frustration in his eyes and his voice at today's press conference. He, like any manager in his position, feels like he had unfinished business.
Still this was a nicely decorated exit by the club. They have allowed Lavicka to depart with the grace and humility he has exhibited since the day he arrived, a personality that hasn't wavered one bit. The results haven't been consistent but you always knew what you would get from the Czech. He never took pot shots at any journalist. Ever.

And so as I sit here deep in the bowels of the Sydney Football Stadium writing this blog, I can only wonder who'll be here next. It's a hell of a job, one of the toughest in Australian sport. The Sydney public are a demanding lot.

Next week I'll go over some of the candidates who the club are considering and some names who might throw their hat into the ring. It's a long list already.

As for Lavicka, it's hard to know where he'll go from here. When he left the Czech football in 2008, the last club he coached was Sparta Prague, easily the biggest deal in the land, so you have to figure he'll get a deal somewhere.

It'll be interesting to watch how he goes. I, for one, wish him all the very best.