February 16, 2009
Two-job coach not a bad option
Since firing Jose Mourinho in September 2007, the wheels have fallen off at Chelsea.
Bringing in Luiz Felipe Scolari, Chelsea's latest managerial casualty, and assuming he could produce championship hardware was a mistake. No offence to Scolari, but the rigours of club soccer in the Premiership far exceed what Scolari experienced managing club soccer in Brazil or the Middle East. And not to diminish his accomplishments, but winning the World Cup with Brazil is equivalent to winning a gold medal coaching a Canadian hockey team. It's hard not to screw it up!
Team cohesion starts at the top down. And owner Roman Abramovich's inability to replace "The Chosen One" has been his biggest failure.
But enough with the past -- Abramovich made the right decision this time, filling Scolari's position with one of the most accomplished managers and savvy tacticians in soccer, bringing Guus Hiddink to Stamford Bridge for the rest of the season.
Whether Hiddink stays long-term depends on how he deals with coaching Chelsea, while keeping his head coaching position with the Russian national team. Coaching two teams at once is a massive undertaking, and something not seen with any kind of regularity anymore.
That being said, Abramovich's Russian ties and background made Hiddink a logical choice.
Those ties, and the fact they are on the same page, trumps any concern about the coach wearing himself too thin. It also trumps questions of commitment, priority, and allegiance.
So Hiddink double-dipping makes sense. But what about in other managerial club vs. country situations? Is it a good idea for international head coaches to also coach at the club level?
It depends on the individual. If the coach is willing to deal with the time demands and can cope with the extra pressure that comes along with both teams, then why not?
The demands of coaching a national team pales in comparison to the demands of a club soccer. One of the reasons Mourinho chose to coach at Inter Milan instead of taking an international managerial position, like England, was because of his appetite for the day-to-day undertakings and demands that only can be fulfilled in club soccer. How much one manager is prepared to take on is truly an individual decision.
That being said, from a supporter, or organizational perspective, an active coach, who is consistently involved in game management is extremely beneficial. International game-play, such as World Cup qualifiers or friendlies, is infrequent.
Speaking of not enough games, the Canadian men's head coaching position is a prime example of inactivity.
Because not enough games are played by the Canadian men's national team, would it make sense for the coach to be active on both club and country fronts?
If and when Dale Mitchell is replaced as coach, it may make sense to have a club manager take over the position, particularly if the candidate is coaching one of Canada's professional club teams.
It would be beneficial, as:
- It would continue to bring Canada's club teams and the CSA together, as they rebuild the country's soccer fabric;
- Coaching day-to-day in the MLS or USL helps with getting to know the player pool and develops a better understanding of the North American game;
-An already employed head coach could lighten the financial burden of hiring a new coach by a currently cash-strapped CSA;
- It would make the position of coaching the 88th-ranked team in the world more attractive.
This concept would be contingent on the CSA and the club team being on the same page. If Abramovich wasn't so influential in Russia, Hiddink wouldn't be at Chelsea.
So Canada and Toronto FC may not be on the same level as Russia and Chelsea. But the blueprint is there: One very good coach, two teams could be the way to go.