In a short space of time as Brisbane Roar head coach, Mike Mulvey has had a lot to cope with. Taking over a team in disarray, halfway through the season, and a working within a club structure, which, I believe, is only making his job harder.
Mike Mulvey needs time and patience to get Roar working again. It’s not easy for any new coach who takes over a club in transition.
You can even look to England, and the likes of Rafael Benitez at Chelsea or Alex McLeish at Aston Villa. When results aren’t going the right way, the fans don’t take to the coach and the pressure is on right away.
Mike’s got to work with what he’s got for now – whether the team he’s got is exactly what he’d want to build himself over time, who knows, but that’s what he’s got to work with because Brisbane locked these players into long-term contracts.
That’s not to say they’re bad players; this is still a champion team but they’ve been underperforming. And when you have two seasons of dominance like the Roar did, fans come to expect that. They expect success, rightly or wrongly. The fans that put that “Mulvey out” banner up at the weekend, they’re used to that success.
Credit to Mike, he came right out and addressed it; he knows it’s a tough situation. I know from personal experience that Queensland football fans can be fickle and when it comes down to it, this is a result game. Football is all about winning.
But equally, coaches need time. Mike will need those two years to build the team he wants and get it playing in the way he wants. You can’t sacrifice long-term plans for the sake of short-term success, particularly in the A-League, where teams are all on the same level.
The A-League has had four different champions in eight years, which shows that the salary cap is working. Even Melbourne Victory, probably the biggest team in the league, have only won two championships, so it’s very hard to sustain the kind of success Brisbane have experienced over the past two seasons.
And, after having a character like Ange Postecoglou as head coach, perhaps Mike’s lack of reputation is counting against him. Maybe some people don’t know about Mike, about the success he’s had before.
He won the title two years in the row with Gold Coast United youth team, which is no mean feat. He’s worked with the women’s national team and the Victory women’s team – but because maybe some people don’t know about him, because he hasn’t coached in the A-League before, they’ve not willing to show him that respect.
And that’s not just the fans. I certainly think the club should have done better by him when they announced he had signed a two-year contract.
When Frank Farina’s full-time appointment was confirmed, Sydney FC had a proper press conference at the stadium – Mike’s was announced at the airport and that shows a lack of respect.
So what should Mike do to get Roar winning again? He needs to start to rebuild that team and reinvigorate it to play as he wants it. You can see he’s already brought in a couple of fresh faces in Jade North – still a good defender – and Stefan Nijland, who you can see can play, even in the brief appearances he’s made.
Mike will look at his roster and decide which ones he wants to keep and which he might move on – then there are contractual situations as well, but if Mike is able to put his own stamp on the team and the players buy into the way he wants to do things – which it seems they are – he’s a good coach and he’ll get them winning again.
They certainly still have a lot of hope they can still make this season a positive one and get to the finals. But it’s a tough challenge. Even though they got a result against Wellington at the weekend, it was still well off what is required to win a grand final.
But then, that’s not surprising. To travel like the Roar squad did to Thailand for AFC Asian Champions League game and back, that effort against Wellington was immense – but I have to ask about player welfare.
I know there are different stories out there about why the venue was changed – the NRL game and the A-League draw - but my question is was it possible to be played at home?
To put their players through that journey, to travel 18 hours midweek and then back up against the Phoenix was unbelievable. The club have their reasons but I think it has cost them more than they realise.
There’s only one way we’re going to improve and that’s by playing more games and these midweek games against top opposition. That’s how players improve, that’s how players in Australia can get themselves up for national selection because not only are you playing in the A-League but they’re playing longer season in the ACL after that.
We only play six months and we need as many games under our belt as possible for our players to develop, to get as much international experience as they can get is vital for our international development as a footballing nation.
This shows that, in my opinion, there are some organisational issues at the Roar that need attention. When Ange was there he had Paul Trimboli as director of football and it was a professional set-up.
But they don’t have anyone in that position now and it blurs the lines between the football staff and the administrators. That shouldn’t happen - the two need to stay separate.
Mike Mulvey needs to have complete control over all football matters and the administrators should look after their own responsibilities. He needs the full support of the club over two years to put in place everything he believes the club needs to get back to winning ways.
That’s how Mike Mulvey will do a great job and how the Roar will get the benefits of a stable structure.