A-League coaches 'too scared' to gamble on undiscovered talent

Risk-averse A-League coaches have been accused of neglecting the hidden gems glittering in Australian football’s National Premier League because they fear taking a punt on talent might cost them their jobs.

2016-2017 A-League managers

2016-2017 A-League managers Source: Getty Images

Leading player agent Buddy Farah, who has a stable of eight overseas-based Australian players, has also called on Football Federation Australia to move quickly towards a promotion-relegation model to provide a platform for potential new stars to shine and shake-up what he calls the A-League “merry-go-round”.

“There are a lot of NPL players far better than some of those in the A-League, but they just don’t get the opportunity,” claimed Farah, a former Australia under-23 international who went on to represent Lebanon and also spent six seasons in the old NSL with Wollongong Wolves and Marconi Stallions.

“As an agent, you don’t want to take on these players because of the lack of opportunity for them to progress.

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"To be frank, a lot of the players running around in the A-League aren’t good enough, and it's time fresh faces were given a chance.

“Look at Sydney United, for example, they have five or six players why are by far capable of playing in the A-League.



“The same goes for the likes of Blacktown City and Green Gully … some of the bigger teams in the NPL have players who could thrive in the A-League, but there's a perception that because they haven’t done that they are not good enough.

“Club coaches are results driven and are too scared to take risks ... they stick with players they are familiar with and who have experience.

"But they are not necessarily the ones who are actually going to get them the results.

“The only coach prepared to take a gamble is Wellington’s Ernie Merrick, and that’s because I don’t think he gives a damn and if he loses his job he’ll back himself to find something else.

“The rest of them are all about holding onto to their jobs because they know how tough I can be to get back into a league with so few cubs."



Referring to FFA’s reluctance to embrace a second tier, Farah said it was time the ruling body "looked at growing the game in this country".

“A lot clubs outside the A-League are calling for a second division, and I can’t see why the FFA won’t give it a crack," he said.

“The way things stand it's is a merry-go-round … the same players are continually getting filtered around the competition.

“The lack of opportunity for lower tier players and second tear clubs is stark, and that’s quite sad."

Farah is a fan of the German model, in particular, explaining: “There are five or six different divisions of football which allow people to sustain a living, beyond playing in the top flight.



“Here, below the A-League the players are all semi-professionals who would be lucky to earn maybe $300 a week, with an elite few on maybe $1000.

“When you look at the crowds some of these NPL sides generate, some are getting attendances of maybe 3000-5000 attendances, you can’t tell me that crowds they can attract won’t sustain a decent product.

“Look at Italy the other day; there was a Serie A game between Sassuolo and Udinese which had only 5000 people in the stadium.

“You are getting that here already in some cases in the NPL and if you add promotion and relegation to the mix you will attract even more.

“Many of these second tier clubs, the likes of South Melbourne for instance, are better financed than some of these A-League clubs, and that's without the salary cap funding.

“There are a lot of successful businessmen backing these teams, and they are committed to continue investing in them.

“The bottom line is that if our competition is really going to take off it's not going to happen with a 10 team league with no promotion or relegation. We need to be different from the other codes.”


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4 min read
Published 29 September 2016 at 8:48pm
By Dave Lewis