Western Sydney Wanderers CEO John Tsatsimas has been in the game long enough to have realised that this morning’s press conference to announce the appointment of Mark Rudan as the new head coach of the club was going to be accompanied by some prickly questions.
After all, this was the first time he would be speaking publicly since the club’s poor start to the season and the allegations made by two former staff members of a toxic culture existing at the club.
However, even he was probably taken aback slightly by the intense barrage of questions that came at him straight off the bat, as the present media put him under an intense interrogation.
The first question from AAP’s George Clarke set the tone, “You went all in with Carl, you gave him total control of the football department and then you’ve allowed him to crash it into the wall, basically. Why did you give him all that rope?”
When Tsatsimas responded by saying that the club believed that “the head coach needs to govern the way he wants to govern… being able to bring in the players he’s identified, the way he wants to play”, and that the club “believes in the structure that he will bring”, Clarke doubled down by stating “this is the fifth manager since Tony Popovic, why should anyone believe that this will be any different? It seems like you’re just making the same mistakes again and again.”
The line of questioning throughout the press conference was an accurate reflection of how the Wanderers fanbase is feeling. Frustrated by years of chronic underachievement on the pitch. Grandiose promises from players, coaches and board members past and present have instead resulted in a sobering mediocrity.
And whilst fans may have initially believed the problem only lay with managers not fit to do the job, after five managers in as many season’s, it surely indicates that the problems run deeper than just the manager in charge.
That’s not to say that sacking Carl Robinson was the wrong call; he had lost almost all support within the fanbase and had the team languishing in second from bottom of the ladder and devoid of any purpose and identity on the pitch. In their 3-0 loss to Brisbane, they looked like a team with either no tactical direction or that had lost faith in their manager. In truth, it was probably a mix of both.
There is also reason to believe that Rudan could be a good fit at this point in time for the club. He achieved positive results in his season at the Wellington Phoenix, and also led Western United to a semi-final appearance in their inaugural season. He is a tough, authoritative figure that should be able to command control and respect within the squad, and implement a tactical system that will be able to get the best out of a talented squad.
However, his messy divorce from the Phoenix highlight concerns that he may not be the best man to help in a club with an already alleged toxic culture, and his tenure in Victoria ended with a very poor run of form.
And in a wider context, many fans will feel that the club is yet again attempting a band aid solution instead of a wide scale surgery of the footballing department at the club. Many fans feel that an independent review is required to examine the veracity of the claims of a toxic culture at the club is required.
And there still remains no director of football or someone in a similar role at the club, meaning the vision and philosophy of the club is solely dictated by the manager. It is a strategy that whilst successful under Tony Popović, has not worked since. Tsatsimas also confirmed that there would be no further changes to the coaching staff or footballing department at this moment in time.
From the outside looking in, it appears that the club is once again reverting at attempting a manager change as a silver bullet that will either fire them to success, or at least be a scapegoat of blame when things go wrong. And whilst Tsatsimas is adamant that “the buck stops with him”, the actions of the club appear to counteract this.
And, quite frankly, the fans are at breaking point. They are tired of the same empty promises, the rhetoric of each season being a new revolution but instead trudging through the same swamp of mediocrity and disappointment.
The club may well ask for the fans to trust in what Rudan can bring to the club, but given their track record, how can fans conceivably trust the club anymore to mend the club without significant changes to how they are run on the pitch?
They may be one of the most passionate and dedicated fanbases in the league, but they are not going to stand idly by and continue to be treated as fools by those who promise rivers of gold and yet fail to deliver. Indeed, many fans are already staying away and more will follow them if change isn’t forthcoming.
If John Tsatsimas and Paul Lederer want to leave any sort of lasting legacy of their time at the club outside of their new training facilities and state-of-the-art stadium, they have to not only look in the mirror, but make sure that, for once, their actions match their rhetoric.
And if that means admitting they have made mistakes along the way and radical overhauls to the way things are conducted in Wanderland, then so be it.