Coaches left to carry the bucket
It never ceases to annoy me, or even make me angry, to read about a coach being under pressure the minute a few results don’t go the right way.
It never ceases to annoy me, or even make me angry, to read about a coach being under pressure the minute a few results don-t go the right way.
It doesn-t seem to matter how well the team might be playing, or what the extenuating circumstances may be, it-s always the coach that shoulders the burden of responsibility and comes under the pump from a ‘trigger happy- media.
I know only too well that this is part of coaching around the world. Maybe it does make for a good headline but seriously, how often is it really justified? Someone's future is put on the line, short and long term, as is that of their family and their staff - although the staff in Australia often survive the coach, which is another story altogether. But I digress.
When results are poor, rarely do I read or hear that some of the players aren-t up to scratch, or that they have poor attitudes, or they might be injury-prone, or should never have been signed in the first place. Sometimes the coach didn-t sign the players who aren-t performing, but he wears the blame regardless.
And I can-t recall hearing much about the management having no idea about football, that they are interfering too much, or that they have clandestine meetings with players behind the coach-s back because they like the reflected glory and want to be mates with the players. How many board members, or officials, believe they know best when in fact the complete opposite is true. I kid you not, these are valid circumstances. I know.
No, the media inevitably focus on the coach. Already this season Frank Farina, Gary van Egmond and most recently John Aloisi have made the headlines for the wrong reasons - and we're not even one-third into the campaign. The former two have managed a reprieve and turned things around for now, but Aloisi is really under the hammer. Maybe having gone so long without a win gives the questions about his tenure some validity, and he is finding out the hard way what it-s like to have your big-name signings spending more time in rehab than playing matches. But does that mean his head should be on the block this early in the season?
And what of Farina and van Egmond - will a few losses in the future (and there will be) mean they will come under fire again? The more often it happens, the more it-s likely to happen, and eventually the story takes on a life of its own. Inevitably, the axe falls. This may happen all around the world, but that doesn't make it right.
Some coaches spend a lot of time cultivating relationships with the media and subsequently the public. They 'blind them with science and baffle them with bulldust' (an Arokism) in the quest to get their message across - hoping this will protect them when things go pear-shape. Others rely purely on honesty and results and don-t worry too much about who likes them, letting the football do the talking. But no matter what category a coach falls into, it's nigh on impossible in this age to avoid the influence of social media.
I-m not going to go into the pros and cons, suffice to say I don-t partake. Period. Apart from reading the comments at the end of an article I don-t tweet or facebook. I have better things to do with my time. What I will say, though, is that it can and does influence the public perception. Farina recently had a much publicised stoush with fans that were quite vitriolic towards him via social media. Where are those same fans now that Sydney have turned the corner? At the time the momentum was against Farina and you couldn-t help but feel that one more loss would have caused a knee-jerk from the club and Frankie would have been sent packing.
Despite the assurances from the chairman that always seem to accompany the “Coach under fire” headline, the fact is decisions by those that hire and fire are affected the media and the perception generated by it - especially social media. Farina stood his ground against those that hide behind a keyboard and hurl anonymous abuse and rightly so. I would bet my house they wouldn't say it to his face - most that live in that world wouldn-t.
So what is the role of the media? To provide objective, knowledgeable, commentary, or to voice popular opinion? Technology has changed it like it has everything else. The advent of the social medium has made everyone a commentator and this is not necessarily a good thing. All of a sudden anyone with an opinion can have a say, no matter whether it is informed or just another meaningless rant from a disgruntled fan. The issue coaches increasingly have to deal with is just who is paying attention.