Phoenix owner should stay quiet on sideline

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 15/12/2012
Gareth Morgan
CLAWS OUT: Gareth Morgan wants action.

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OPINION: Gareth Morgan, pull your head in.

That will be tough for someone who is outspoken about everything, but whatever is going on with Morgan and his Phoenix co-owners looks uncomfortably like fanboys who are growing impatient with their new toy.

The consortium behind the capital-based football team is upset that its team is struggling to draw crowds to Westpac Stadium.

Ricki Herbert's team has employed a predictable style of football that has kept them from the bottom of the ladder but isn't putting bottoms on the plastic fold-ups or, presumably, doing much for the club's bottom line.

So Morgan wants a more attacking style, something to pull the punters through the turnstiles, but he's an economist, who made a lot of money when Trade Me was sold, and a football fan.

To the best of my knowledge, he's never been the coach of a professional football club.

Morgan suggests that in any industry it would be crazy for the owners to sit on the sidelines and let their employees dictate the direction the business was going.

What's also crazy is management putting people in positions of responsibility and then second-guessing them.

The owners must have faith in Herbert, because they reappointed him to a two-year term. They knew what they were getting. So either they didn't spell out their intentions or Herbert has been ignoring them.

Herbert himself has played a diplomatic line publicly but you can bet there would have been a fair bit of eye-rolling going on behind closed doors.

Good managers put quality people into positions of responsibility and then show trust and faith in them by allowing them to get on with their jobs, supporting them where needed, but never meddling.

What the Phoenix owners are pushing for isn't necessarily wrong, and neither is it new.

It has echoes of the situation that faced the Highlanders earlier in these 2000s.

A regular Super Rugby finalist (I swear, it's true), there were concerns among the team's powerful coterie of senior players that they were not playing an expansive enough brand of rugby to go all the way and win a title.

Although, publicly at least, Laurie Mains was talking of moving aside, the players flexed their muscle and had him thrown out anyway in favour of Greg Cooper.

Combined with a legacy of arrogant and inept management by Otago rugby officials, those actions set in motion a decade of stumbling performances on the field and financial mismanagement off it.

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Morgan et al need to tread warily.

True fans, the ones who keep coming back year after year, would rather see their team win ugly than lose pretty.

And when Morgan said that defence doesn't win you the A League, he will have lost a lot of people.

Defence wins titles. Ask the Breakers, ask every team that has won a Rugby World Cup. Ask the Warriors where they went wrong this season.

Perhaps the All Blacks are the exception to this rule.

They strive, and usually succeed, in winning pretty - but they are fortunate to be in a space right now where they are quite good and a lot of the teams they are playing are not.

- Southland

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