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Modern football coaches always the targets of power plays

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There are many challenges in modern coaching but easily the most difficult is the test of your authority in the public arena.

Last weekend saw Adelaide coach Josep Gombau and Perth Glory’s Alistair Edwards both essentially putting their jobs on the line in order to maintain control of their destiny. In the end only one was able to successfully navigate this process.

Gombau had a public argument with an Adelaide reporter following a media conference and Edwards a falling out with his captain, Jacob Burns.

There are lessons to be learnt from this but for me there is no doubt that coaching is becoming a more difficult proposition in this modern world, where it seems control is a power many aspire to within a sporting club.

Whether it be players, owners, boards, management, fans, the media or even the head body, the days of a coach totally steering the club seem to be long gone. The question is not whether this is a positive or negative development, but whether a coach can truly instil a philosophy when there are, these days, going to be more than just his two hands on the steering wheel.

Both Adelaide and Perth  began the season with coaches who spelt out a clear direction for their respective clubs.

In Adelaide it was a distinct style of play, while in Perth the mantra involved implementing a youth policy that  would reap long-term benefits.

After 10 rounds there can be no doubt  Adelaide is developing a distinctive style  while in Perth, last week’s line-up was one of the youngest seen in the A-League. So why were both coaches forced to put their jobs on the line when it seems they were fulfilling the terms of their appointments?

One word: results.

There seems to be little patience for building and the never-ending desire for the quick fix or immediate success means that every week the ladder becomes the only gauge as to who is doing a good job and who is not.

Do results matter? Of course they do. But smart people and smart organisations look beyond just the win/loss ratio and more to the end game.

For me the end game has been always to taste ultimate success and that means sometimes you need to build a strong foundation before you move forward quickly.

If Adelaide or Perth challenge for the title next year, will this year have been a waste? Both these clubs have yet to win a championship, so for me it was definitely a punt worth taking.

So where does that leave coaches? Seeing Edwards lose his job would make a lot of coaches nervous about testing their authority again. The reality, however, is that for all coaches there is never any certainty of a timeline and, as difficult as it seems, you need to be brave and put your job on the line if you believe in what you are doing.

Coaching by consensus does not work and while many will want to put their hands on the steering wheel, allowing them to do so will inevitably mean the crash is around the corner. The one thing that won’t change is that the only person held responsible will be the coach, no matter how many hands are on that wheel.

For me, Edwards and Gombau were doing what they had spelt out they would do and that’s what coaching and leading is all about. Adelaide responded to last week’s controversy with a 4-0 victory over Central Coast. As a coach there needs to be an understanding that even in the best of times your approval rate never goes beyond 50 per cent. That means half the dressing room, half the board and management, half the press and half the fans. And that is during the good times. Belief, therefore,  needs to come from within and the courage to see it through, regardless of approval and consensus, is a non-negotiable.

©2013 The Age | This article was written by Ange  Postecoglou and first appeared in The Age on December 20, 2013.

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