Australian weather, Premier League intrigue.
Well, we wanted it to be like the English Premier League…
Before debating the rights and wrongs of the liquidation of the Culina family from Newcastle, we should get one thing straight – this sort of drama is good for Australian football. In fact, we have been begging for it.
The Australian game needs big, rich owners and a managerial merry-go-round. It needs political drama and punditry and speculation – especially when, on the pitch, the teams don’t exactly knock it about like the Arsenal.
Even those running the A-League must have privately enjoyed the event that overshadowed the season launch of 2011. When current Football Federation CEO Ben Buckley returned home late on Tuesday evening, after spending much of the night shaking his head and tut-tutting at the sudden dismissal of Jets coach Branko Culina, he must have flopped down on his couch, cracked open a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, stroked his purring Siamese cat, and quietly whispered “Excellent.”
The only thing people will remember from the 2011 A-League Season Launch is the slogan “We Are Football” (see what they’re doing there?!) and the fact that Branko was two hours away from being shown the door. Without this added piece of intrigue, I doubt many would have been made aware of the season launch at all.
I feel a tremendous amount of sympathy for the Culinas – especially, mournfully, Jason – who is a tremendous athlete who has fallen prey to a footballing curse. And whilst I was floored by the speed and viciousness of Nathan Tinkler’s response, we should look at who Tinkler is and get an understanding of his frustration.
Football is a business, and anybody who says otherwise is running a business of their own. Nathan Tinkler is a businessman, and a hugely successful one, and you don’t get to his position by second guessing, or suffering fools. We have all seen these types of people in business – especially in the mining and manufacturing industry. Get it done and tell me how much it will cost. I don’t want to know the details, just pull the trigger, and I’ll sign the cheque. And if something goes wrong there will be consequences. If I lose three million dollars, you can dig your own hole. If I lose three million dollars and my picture ends up in the paper, dig one for your Dad as well.
Nathan Tinkler reminds me of Roman Abramovich – another wealthy football club owner. One is rumoured to be a former KGB agent, but it’s the OTHER who has probably killed people.
Another trait of successful business operators is that they hate constraints and rules that may jeopardise investment. Could you imagine the meeting that took place when the A-League handed Tinkler the keys to the Newcastle Jets? It must have been like that scene from Gremlins, where the creepy Asian guy goes through all the rules for the new pet. “You can have one marquee player who is left-footed, and another one who has an accent. One of your talented wingers is an Iraqi international, though he is an asylum seeker, so he takes up another international contract, unless you vote Greens, in which case you get a 30% discount. Don’t change the kit. Don’t change the name. And most important of all – never, ever get it wet.”
And what did the city of Newcastle do to Tinkler in return for saving their beloved football team? We stole his Ferrari and set it on fire.
Branko was just collateral damage – nuclear fallout – but there were also signs that he was not the man to lead Newcastle to another A-League title. Nobody ever got rich and famous by agreeing with The Newcastle Herald (indeed, their knives are often extra sharp when it comes to both Tinkler and the Jets), but reporter Robert Dillon recently wrote a very smart article that showed Branko was negligent when it came to Jason, even if – especially if – he took no role in his signing. The road to ruin is paved with good intentions (and lit by burning Ferraris). Branko may have had no active role in buying his son, but that does not mean he was doing his job properly. He is the manager.
As for Jason, his predicament is a terrible one, but he will most certainly get paid. I find it highly unlikely that the club will be allowed to terminate his contract, and yet – in a way – they must try. Jason will never wear the new Jets strip (they only arrived a few hours before kickoff, after all), courtesy of what has been declared an existing injury. Having him on the books for three years – and never having him kick a ball in competition – threatens the ability of the entire club to challenge for the A-League title. To a ruthless businessman – this is unacceptable.
I have no idea what I’m talking about – but I think Tinkler WANTS to spend money. I think he would wear Jason’s three year contract (or the majority of it) if it meant bringing in another marquee, a new headline-grabbing manager and putting the whole ordeal behind him. His image in the city of Newcastle is extremely important – even from a business point of view – and I believe he has started to look at his new Gremlin, and all of its rules, as a threat to that image.
Along with 12,000 other people, I attended the first home game of the Jets season – a thrilling 3-2 victory over Melbourne Heart. Even without the Culinas, there is menace and guile to the Jets. Ryan Griffiths is a true talented professional – his finishing superb in both of his goals. Korean import Byun Sung-hwan ran with endeavour and threatened from the back, whilst Topor-Stanley remains a rock in the Newcastle defence. Melbourne Heart broke free at times, courtesy of their pace, but Nikolai’s positional play and awareness of the game makes him invaluable. The stands had a wonderful atmosphere – the squadron tireless in the spring sun, and families in their cheap seats looked resplendent in their new red hats.
There are plenty of kids in the vicinity of our reserved seats, so I promise that our group of new thirty-something Jets members will watch our language, and never say the C-word.
No, the other C-word.