Miller’s messy sacking ends another Newcastle nightmare

Put all the rumour-mongering aside for a moment: when the Ledman Group took over the Newcastle Jets, Scott Miller was already a dead man walking.

Scott Miller

Former Newcastle Jets coach Scott Miller Source: Getty Images

When a new owner comes into any club, they invariably want to bring in their staff and do it their way. To that end, Miller’s time was always going to be limited. It was a matter of when, not if. Harsh but true.

What is a surprise is the manner of his departure - or more exactly, the timing. To do it barely a few weeks out from the season opening game really is the part that caught everyone on the hop. 


And then to punt his assistant, Luciano Trani, who reportedly fell out with Miller during the club’s pre-season tour of China, added a new twist to the tale some 24 hours later. 

It’s all a bit Bold and the Beautiful. As it has always been on the Hunter, pretty much dating back to the day Richard Money (remember him?) took charge on day one. 

As in the daytime soapies, we’ll never really know exactly what happened until years later.  What we do know is this: everyone has a different version of exactly what transpired in China - and everyone has a different idea of what should have happened when the team reconvened back in Newcastle. 

There’s been talk of back-stabbing, teamsheet mishaps, collusion between assistant coaches against the senior coach, tactical disagreements and interference from above. The list goes on and on. 

The reluctance of Miller to take a proper look at ex-Tianjin Teda midfielder Ma Leilei was denied by chief executive Lawrie McKinna as a factor. Perhaps. But do be aware the Chinese do not enjoy seeing their pride dented. Especially when they're picking up the tab. 

By his own admission, Miller is not a man who takes kindly to being given direction. It’s his way or the highway. 

There’s nothing wrong with that trait in a senior coach. Such clarity in thought can lead a group to great success. But there is a belief that Miller, at just 34 years old, with no playing or head coaching career, had not yet earned the right to be so direct. 

While players spoke favourably of his training methods, some were privately puzzled by his  desire to impose military-like discipline. 

One senior player spoke a few months back about being made to feel like they were “being put in the naughty corner” when anything went wrong. 

“We probably would have accepted that idea,” the player continued, “If the coach had been around for more than five minutes.” 

There is no doubt Miller is a talent worth persisting with. He even undertook the first coaching session of Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos’ rein, some three years ago. 

While Miller didn’t get the national assistant gig - that fell to Ante Milicic - he was endorsed by Postecoglou for the Jets’ job. So he clearly is no mug. 

But the wisdom of hindsight suggests his appointment at Newcastle was flawed from the start. It was a thrilling idea to give a precocious young manager a shot at the big time but probably not a realistic one. 

Miller had spent considerable time at Fulham, obviously, but whether that alone constituted the right qualification for an A-League coaching job was debatable. 

It would have made more sense to have him cut his teeth in a senior job at a lower level, either here or in England. And right now, that still seems the most logical course of action. He’s got plenty of time to put his career on the right path. 

The Jets? Well, they’ve got less than a month to sort this mess out and prepare for a season that’s suddenly looking far from promising. 

With such gallant, hardy fans and a football history like few others, it’s a shame to see them fall into another mess, almost overnight. 

May it be the last one for a very, very long time.

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4 min read
Published 9 September 2016 at 12:40pm
By Sebastian Hassett