We’re heading into Round 20. Just four wins this season, sitting in a disappointing seventh spot on just 21 points. All fingers seem to be pointing to our coach for someone to blame. I agree with the majority of the fans when I say that it may be time for a change in direction. I’m extremely grateful for Popovic’s loyalty to the club. He was our first ever manager and turned down opportunities to go overseas to come home instead. However I believe it is time to take a fresh approach to the club and possibly move on. Some fans I’ve witnessed on social media have spoken abusively and laughed at the coach’s expense. Really? After what he’s done for us?
I find it quite baffling that a man who is held in such honour and truly idolised by an entire community, can be turned on so aggressively and quickly in the space of a season. For me, the Mariners loss was the last straw, while some fans were voicing their dismay as early as after Round 1.
It appears as though if our long-serving coach Tony Popovic achieves anything less than a finals spot this season than he will be replaced. The chopping and changing of the runners-up squad of 2015-16 drew the ire of the fans, especially when the current squad holds only four of the players that started last year’s Grand Final defeat. But in this case, some of these decisions were difficult for Popa to make, with limited salary cap space to work with.
It’s our fifth season as a club now. In our first four seasons, Popa achieved the Premiers Plate. Three A-League Grand Final appearances, 3 losses. One Asian Champions League trophy (in our first attempt!) So why is he spoken about in poor taste? Is it really what such an influential figure in our club’s success deserves? Certainly not.
It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the people calling for Popovic’s sacking in a disrespectful manner weren’t following the club from the start. Various unknown players from different parts of the world were assembled by Popovic. Popa and his assistant Ante Milicic worked tirelessly, studying players such as Polenz, La Rocca and Poljak as Michael Visontay revealed in his book, ‘Welcome to Wanderland.’ He did a brilliant job in setting this club up and becoming recognised outside of Australia. Popa took this team of some unknown and discarded players and turned them into Champions of Asia within two years, yet why are people calling for our coach’s head as if he’s done nothing for the club?
In my opinion, this negativity towards Tony Popovic is uncalled for and unnecessary. Especially for someone who has led us to so much success in such a small space of time and after so much hard work that has gone underestimated and sometimes unnoticed.
I don’t blame any fans for wanting a new coach. At least show the man the respect he’s earned in his time at the club.