- Rest of World
|A-League Opinion: Give Melbourne Victory coach Jim Magilton a chance|
Over the past few weeks, the future of Melbourne Victory coach Jim Magilton has been a hot topic among football pundits. The likes of Les Murray, Craig Foster and Ned Zelic have had their say on the topic. Now it's my turn: a mad supporter who lives and breathes Melbourne Victory.
In his article for The Age (How can Victory's players be only ones to blame?), Foster stated that Magilton had failed in his task to turn around Victory and get them into the finals. He is right. He says that “one win in 10 games when it counted” would not be acceptable in most leagues in the world. Yes, this is usually right. He says that the coach blaming players is completely wrong. More about that later. Finally, he says that an A-League team full of internationals should be capable of consistently playing quality football. Yes, this is usually right.
But this is not your usual situation and Foster seems keen to lay all the blame on the Northern Irishman's doorstep. There is a number of circumstances and happenings that he and other pundits are almost refusing to acknowledge.
When Mehmet Durakovic was sacked, squad morale was at an all-time low. I attended both games (at Brisbane and at Central Coast) before he was sacked and the team was an absolute shambles. The board made the right decision to fire the NSL legend. Questions do need to be asked about why Durakovic was appointed and the training methods he used in pre-season.
Magilton inherited a squad that was really struggling. The players were obviously mentally shot and there was barely any cohesion on the field. The former Ipswich coach didn't have any time to hold a pre-season, get to know his squad or gel with the players. He was thrown straight in the deep end and, I'm guessing, told to do his best.
Obviously for the first few games, Magilton would have been selecting players based on advice, videos and the few matches and training he had presided over. Only three games into his tenure, he lost Isaka Cernak, Diogo Ferreira and Matthew Foschini to the Olyroos for a four match period. All three played a vital part in Victory's win over Wellington last week.
Is a coach expected to come from overseas, immediately fix a disjointed squad, deal with losing important squad players and start playing beautiful football that wins games? Is this what Craig Foster expected? What planet does he live on?
Foster's article, written from the confines of Planet Nou Camp, was scathing of Magilton for putting some of the blame in the Victory performances on the players. But as the majority of us supporters know, most of the moments that have cost Victory points have come from horrible individual errors.
Moments such as: not clearing a routine corner against Adelaide in Magilton's first match, the two unforgivable penalties against Perth, the two defensive mix-ups against Sydney at home, the mental lapse in letting Michael Thwaite burst through to score and the silly penalty conceded against Sydney away. There are plenty of other moments I haven't mentioned.
You could argue that the coach is supposed to instil confidence in the defence. But has he had enough time to fix the defensive issues? Particularly with the poor form and injury problems that eventually ruled captain Adrian Leijer out for the season. Most of the lost points were basic defending errors committed by the players.
It's obvious that Magilton is a man that wears his heart on his sleeve. Most Melbourne Victory fans blamed these individual errors for the loss of points and Magilton being the straight-to-the-point bloke he is, also mentioned that this is what was costing the team wins.
Is it a new manager's fault that his players are giving away ridiculously stupid penalties and costing the team goals? No it's not. If the same thing is happening after the new manager has spend significant time at the club including a pre-season, well then you can lay the blame at his doorstep.
The squad has lacked the right “mechanics” all season. So what if the side is full of internationals? You can put together some of the best players in the world and not guarantee success; as seen by Chelsea and Manchester City.
The defence has been incredibly poor. Not enough work was done pre-season in signing players and getting the structure right. Players such as Rodrigo Vargas and Matthew Kemp have long been exposed at not being good enough at this level. Young defenders Petar Franjic and Matthew Foschini also haven't developed as well as hoped, although I thought the latter was very good against Wellington.
The central midfield has been a revolving door of players all season. Only two players that have featured in the guts of the team, have scored this season; Ferreira's volley against Wellington earlier in the season and James Jeggo's stunner against the same team last week. There has been a distinct lack of creativity and imagination from the midfield engine. How often have you seen the central midfielders getting forward into the box? This is because of the lack of support given defensively by the forwards.
The forward trio has generally been good going forward most of the season. Harry Kewell, Carlos Hernandez and Archie Thompson have scored 24 of Victory's 33 goals. Factoring in two own goals, other Victory players have only accounted for seven goals this season. The problem hasn't been that the forwards haven't been scoring, it's the fact that they are either unable or too lazy to get back and defend after pushing forward.
Whether you agree or not, it seems to me that it isn't a coincidence that Victory's midfield and defence are under siege time and time again because the opposition's transition from defence to attack is too easy. No wonder the Victory engine room is afraid of getting forward because if they lose the ball then there will be no one to protect the defence.
This mechanical style of play was drummed into the Victory team pre-season. Four defenders, two holding midfielders, two attacking wingers and a playmaker in behind a striker. With the fact some players have been proven to not be good enough, the injuries, the Olyroos' departures and individual mistakes, what honestly could Magilton do in 10 measly games to arrest this slide?
In fact, amongst the poor results, there has been some genuine moments that have excited Victory fans. The blooding and subsequent improvement of Jeggo has been a joy to watch. He was pretty tentative and nervous in his first few games but with a dash of experience and confidence, he produced a brilliant performance against Wellington. Funnily enough it was the first time this season that I had seen one of our central midfielders driving forward with purpose and making runs in to the attacking box.
The introduction of 17-year-old Julius Davies was also exciting for Victory fans. His dazzling performance as a substitute against Wellington showed that his potential is huge and with the right nurturing, could become a quality player.
Along with encouraging performances from Cernak, Foschini and Ferreira, Victory fans could walk away from the game thinking that the club has an exciting future. With the departure or impending dismissal of a number of players, you would expect the club to recruit heavily in the off-season and not make the same mistake as last.
This article is not supposed to convince you that Jim Magilton is a great manager. For all I know, Magilton may struggle next season with his own team. But I just can't believe how quick some pundits are to write off someone who simply has not had enough time.
Give Magilton a contract for next season and judge him solely on that. He can then be judged after a full pre-season with his team and wear the blame for any issues. What Victory needs is stability and I'm glad the Victory board looks like they have noticed this and will give a man a chance, something that some of the football world should do too.
Leave your thoughts below as we want to know what YOU think...