My Soccer World

On The Wall With Vijesh Rai: Coaches Must Go When Writing Is On The Wall

Posted on: November 25, 2008

AS an Arsenal fan, the joy of beating Manchester United two weeks ago has been replaced by dismay no thanks to the defeats suffered against Aston Villa and Manchester City.

Reasons aplenty have been given for Arsenal’s inconsistency but an interesting development has been Arsene Wenger coming in for what must surely be the harshest criticism he has received in the 12 years he has been holding the position.

Certain sections of the English press, which had unabashedly praised him following the win over United, are saying that the time has come for Wenger and Arsenal to part ways.

Quite a few fans feel the same way too and if empty seats start appearing at the Emirates Stadium, the cash-strapped Arsenal board may well start to feel likewise.

But the big picture here is that Wenger, Arsenal’s most successful manager, is not above criticism and a string of bad results is enough for his position to come into question.
The only thing Wenger can do is motivate his players and hope they respond by ensuring that Arsenal, who are surely out of the running for the English Premier League title, finish in the top four, qualify for next season’s Champions League and also win one of the Cup competitions.

It is the same for national coach B. Sathianathan, who must have surely felt that the FA of Malaysia was being unfair when it said it would decide his future after next month’s Asean Championship.

Sathianathan, given Malaysian football’s lack of success in recent years, must have felt that he deserves more after last year’s Merdeka Tournament triumph and finishing runners-up this year … but is it?

While Sathianathan deserves credit for what he has achieved, we have to remember that the Merdeka Tournament is a pale shadow of what it was and if we are to really believe that Malaysian football can rise again, we must start winning real events.

The Asean Championship is one such event and it was good that Sathianathan said that as a professional, he understands that pressure comes with the job.

His next step is to get the players to think the same and maybe, Malaysia will finally find the formula to win the Asean Championship.

If he can’t, then he is surely staring at the end.

Sarjit Singh found that out when the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) decided not to renew his contract.

Sarjit too thought he had done well by guiding the national team to the Azlan Shah Cup runners-up spot and Asia Cup bronze last year but the new MHF lineup thinks otherwise and hockey is set to go foreign again.

What must surely hurt Sarjit, and Sathianathan if it comes to that, is that the players who were part of the “failures” will continue to play big roles in resurrecting their respective sport under new coaches. Even worse, this will be a cycle that will be repeated long after their successors are gone.

But that is the name of the game and coaches must know that the beginning of the end, for them, starts the moment they sign their contracts and when they walk away it should be with their heads held high in the knowledge that they gave their sport the best.

They must, and this applies to all coaches, also accept that holding a position too long is not possible in sport.

Targets, and even Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak mentioned this in delivering his keynote speech at the National Sports Convention, must be set for coaches and they must be met.

If not, then the coaches must make way for new blood and as much as Arsenal value Wenger, a fourth season without a trophy will be unacceptable.

The same should apply, across the board, in Malaysian sport.

New Straits Times

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