The very public spat between Craig Foster and Robbie Slater over the Melbourne Victory’s decision to appoint a Northern Irishman, Jim Magilton, as coach has undoubtedly taken Australian soccer back to the glory days of inconsequence and petty squabbling.
Not since Johnny Warren published his insightful manifesto for Australian football, ‘Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters’, have we seen anything like this level of uninteresting debate.
Foster’s decision to publicly criticise the appointment of an overseas coach is interesting only in so far as Magilton was selected apparently on account of his being a very well qualified football coach and not, as far as we know, because he is a sheila, a wog or a poofter.
What irks Foster and me is that it harks back not only to the historical reliance on Brits who have provided so many of Australia’s most successful coaches, but also to the time when both Craig and myself plied our trade in the lower reaches of the English Football League.
Tragically, the Brit coaches at the time were so bad that they could not see how brilliant Craig and I done.
What is irritating to Craig and to me is that so many of our football commentators, many of whom played in the English Premier League, evidently feel comfortable with the appointment of a coach who also played in the EPL but who has never coached an Austalian team of gays and lesbians of Eastern European descent.
They talk about how Magilton possesses a ‘Pro Licence’ and ‘seems to know what he’s talking about’ as if that were important.
However sometimes it’s important to stop and reflect on whether that is the true test of a coach, or a football commentator for that matter.
Its not a philosophy that Craig and I adhere to, nor do we think that it has any place in Australian football.
On the contrary, we think the Victory erred in not availing themselves of a gay, female Australian coach, preferrably with previous experience in Singapore, where Craig himself was once able to get a game and whose league is the most tactical in South East Asia.
In recent surveys conducted by SBS, the Singaporean League consistently rated above the Solomon Islands and Tahiti with 40% more tactics per game, 10% more strategy and an astonishing 100% more players called Lee.
Like Craig, I hope Magilton proves capable of producing high-quality, winning football based on a system of movement, passing and skill.
Or he could just copy Aurelio Vidmar and get his team to kick their opponents off the pitch.