It has appeared for quite some time that 2012/13 would be characterised forever in my mind as the season of teams I support showing no patience with their coaches, much to my dismay, but this one really takes the cake.
New Zealand football has so much to thank Ricki Herbert for. He took over the Knights in their dying stages and immediately gained some respectability for that disastrous excuse for an A-League franchise – possibly one of the greatest miracles performed by a coach since Sven-Göran Eriksson won a scudetto with Lazio.
When the Phoenix was formed, the Football Federation Australia demanded that Herbert be involved. He uprooted his family from Auckland and moved to Wellington to save professional football in New Zealand. At various times in his tenure at the Knights and Phoenix he has worked without being paid because of the sad state of the back offices he has been encumbered with.
As our national team manager he managed to qualify New Zealand for a World Cup, and when he got there he guided them through the group stages unbeaten.
He is quite simply the most successful football coach this country has ever produced, yet he has now resigned, presumably before he could be sacked. Forced out by owners who know nothing about football by their own admission. They demanded a change of style that was outside his comfort zone and beyond his players’ skill-set. They criticised fans who decried the poor results that followed as “pathetic” for not having more patience with the club as it transitioned to ‘total football’. The sort of patience it seems they were not prepared to extend to their own coach. Some are suggesting the next Yellow Fever t-shirt should have “bring back Ricki” printed on it. Perhaps “bring back Terry” would be preferable.
Many have been putting the boot in online and in the media for quite some time. Some of the same people have continued to put the boot in now that he’s gone. They acknowledge how wonderful he’s been and what a jolly nice chap he is either before or after putting in the boot, but that seems to me a bit like the same sort of equivocation as “I’m not racist but…”
Others don’t even bother with couching their contempt with platitudes. One of the things about posting online when you’ve got a reasonably unusual name, as my brothers are all too aware, is that your views can sometimes be tagged to other members of your family. And when one of said family members happens to be a current All White, you may not be doing your relative many favours given Ricki is still our national team coach…
What have the Barbarouses family got against Ricki Herbert? I’d love to know…
But my main problem with this has always been and remains that Herbert’s critics have yet to come up with a realistic name of a suitable replacement. There is not a single New Zealander alive who is qualified and good enough to coach the Phoenix apart from the man they’ve just effectively sacked. That then begs the question of who we now can get. I’ll be waiting with interest to see who the lucky individual is and I’m looking forward to the champagne football coming our way when the successful candidate arrives.
Hey, Zdeněk Zeman is available!
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.