The Roar Dynasty – the spirit and success of the team that won 3 titles in 4 years – appears to be all but over.
It’s been a tumultuous start to the 2014/15 campaign for the Brisbane Roar and although the team has experienced some bumpy patches in the past, I don’t think we’ve seen this level of locker room unrest since the Frank Farina days. It all started in Round 4 when Liam Miller left the club on bad terms, citing a lack of support and communication from manager Mike Mulvey. Miller was a solid contributor to the club in his two seasons at the Roar but no one felt that he was a crucial loss to the club. At that stage, it was supposed to be a blip on the radar and nothing more. The season had started on a poor run of form (four losses out of four, equalling the worst ever start to a season in competition history) but I don’t think anyone expected what was to follow.
After a morale boosting 4-o away win against Newcastle Jets in Round Five, the club travelled to Melbourne and ultimately lost to the Victory 1-0. Hours later, there were rumours that Mulvey was getting the axe. On Sunday morning, Courier Mail journo Marco Monteverde reported it as fact. People contacted Mulvey shortly after and he claimed it was the first he had heard of it. The club remained silent for an awkward few hours before eventually confirming his removal (which they laughably claimed was a resignation) that same evening. After leading the Roar to a championship double and qualifying for the Asian Champions League, Mike Mulvey had been sensationally sacked by the club just six games into the new season and he seemed to be the last person to hear about it. Fans were puzzled and upset. There were rumours flying around of a mutiny in the locker room. The club’s press releases talked at length about how Mulvey had deviated from ‘the club’s philosophy’. The season was in tatters and it was only November. What on Earth was going on?
Mulvey has yet to share his side of the story and to date has not spoken publicly about what happened. But here’s a few tidbits of what we do know so far.
- After an indifferent pre-season, Thomas Broich said on the eve of the competition that he didn’t think the Roar had it in them to win.
- The Roar have a senior leadership team of seven players and Mulvey apparently lost their support.
- Daily Telegraph journo Carly Adno stated on a Fox Football podcast that Mulvey had not attended several Roar training sessions, angering players.
- Mike Mulvey reportedly signed Albanian striker Mensur Kurtishi entirely off a highlights DVD sent in by his agent. Kurtishi has been a major disappointment and a poor substitute for Besart Berisha. The off-season recruiting has been exceptionally poor, rivalling Newcastle Jets for worst in the competition.
- Mulvey had a falling out with the club’s technical director Ken Stead.
- As the club’s ‘guardian’, Stead apparently has the power to influence the hiring and firing of managers without being directly responsible for the week to week results himself.
- To date, no one knows who leaked Mulvey’s dismissal to the Courier Mail.
- His replacement, Frans Thijssen, from Holland, was already in Brisbane the weekend Mulvey was sacked. When asked how he got here so quickly, he explained that he went to the Roar to apply for ‘a different role’ and was offered the manager’s position.
- Thijssen has not been head manager at a club since 2001.
Should Mulvey have been given the chance to right the ship? Absolutely. Unless there was something more drastic and unprofessional that has yet to be disclosed, it seems crazy to let the man go after such a short spell. It suggests the club has a similar problem to their rugby counterparts Queensland Reds where player power and the influence of backstage personnel may have lead to a toxic environment where the squad became divided and there was not a clear chain of command.
What has emerged from this mess so far is the realisation that Ken Stead is a kingmaker at the club and that when it came to a decision to back Stead or Mulvey, the club’s senior leadership team opted to back Stead. Three weeks later, captain Matt Smith sought permission to leave the club and head for Thailand to play for Bangkok Glass. He was granted his release and unceremoniously benched for his last game, given mere minutes in stoppage time against Adelaide United. for his farewell game. Smith claims that the decision was a financial one to support his family but there’s plenty of speculation that Smith was a Mulvey supporter who saw the writing on the wall after the ex-manager’s dismissal.
I’m of the opinion that Mike Mulvey should have been treated much better and given an opportunity to salvage the season but I also disagreed with a lot of his decisions regarding recruitment and youth players in the lead up to this season. With Mulvey gone and a string of injuries and departures to the likes of Broich, Theo, Berisha, Franjic, Smith and Stefanutto, the club has had no choice but to embrace its younger players who I believe should have been given more chances to integrate into the starting eleven a long time ago. It’s begun to turn the season around. After a dismal first five weeks that resulted in ‘LLLLW’, the team has slowly begun to find their form and are tracking at ‘LWDLW’ with a draw against the table topping Perth Glory and important wins against Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United away.
But what is plain to see is that the likes of Thomas Broich and Matt Smith are no longer the best players in the competition in their respective positions any longer. The rest of the competition has caught up to them. When the time comes for the Roar to step up and challenge for the title once more, it won’t be because of a star from the Mulvey or the Postecoglou era. It will be a new signing or a youngster fulfilling their potential that will lead them there. The Postecoglou and Mulvey dynasty is over.