Morgan's mid-life madness

Gareth Morgan has inspired some controversy over his handling of the Wellington Phoenix football team.
Gareth Morgan has inspired some controversy over his handling of the Wellington Phoenix football team.

Good on Phoenix football captain Andrew Durante for standing up the other day and taking a shot at one of the club's owners, the increasingly voluble Gareth Morgan.

Durante, an amiable Aussie who knows when enough is enough, said: "To be honest, I've been through so much Gareth talk over the last month that I have just completely blocked it out. I've been in a pretty tough place with all these comments and having to answer for owners."

Some of Durante's Phoenix team-mates, including Paul Ifill, Leo Bertos and Jeremy Brockie, have also publicly taken issue with the outspoken Morgan.

It can't be easy. They are professional football players, paid by Morgan. What's more, to judge by some of his recent utterances, he's not in the calmest space at the moment, so there's no telling what he might do with recalcitrant players.

I asked Morgan last year if he knew much about football. "Not really," he said. "I'm more of a rugby man, actually."

Given his stated lack of football knowledge, it's a pity he has involved himself in the playing side of the Phoenix.

Imagine how Manchester United's Alex Ferguson would react if American owner, Malcolm Glazer, started making public pronouncements about how the team's playing style needed to change.

The same with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal if Stain Krienke, the majority shareholder, turned up at training and started waving his arms around like a coach.

I'm amazed Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert has stayed so quiet lately. He must have been speaking through gritted teeth when asked about Morgan's pronouncements.

Morgan has paid a lot of money for part-ownership of the Phoenix and helped rescue the club from its financial woes after the Terry Serepisos-era ended unsatisfactorily.

As Morgan said: "I don't usually embark on a business proposition where the goal is to break even."

So I can understand him being concerned about small crowds and rising debts.

His solution: We'll play "total football", like the Dutch did in the 1970s.

Quite apart from the fact that the Phoenix in 2013 are not as talented a group as Johan Cruyff's 1970s Dutch side, Morgan is missing the point.

The best way to satisfy fans is to win. Fans prefer their team to win 1-0 than lose 5-2. The greatest game in New Zealand football history was in 2009, when the All Whites beat Bahrain 1-0 in Wellington to secure a spot in the World Cup finals. No-one left the stadium that night complaining that Herbert had stacked his defence or that only one goal had been scored.

If Morgan is not happy with Herbert's coaching, he should get a new coach.

What he shouldn't do is appoint himself as pseudo assistant coach and start talking about stuff he knows nothing about.

Morgan's zaniness went further last week. He labelled the Yellow Fever fans "pathetic". These are the fans, loyal and fanatical, who turn up in all weather to support the Phoenix! Next he'll be banning them from games.

He's also talking about moving Phoenix headquarters to Newtown Park, which has seating for 1000 and no floodlights.

So the answer isn't to start winning. It's to take the team to a low-budget stadium. What will that solve?

Morgan has done some wonderful things for people over the past decade. His heart is generally in the right place.

Let's put these past few months down to mid-life madness and hope he comes to his senses and shuts up.

Joseph Romanos is a Wellington sports writer and broadcaster.

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