A decision hard to fathom

2012-01-14 00:00

WELL, nobody saw that one coming. Friday the 13th will be one to remember for Ian Palmer. The coach was sacked by Maritzburg United yesterday morning in a decision that is set to leave many United fans scratching their heads.

While Palmer’s weekend is likely to be grimmer than usual, it is chairperson Farouk Kadodia and the rest of the “heavies” at United who are the ones who should be most worried. See, Palmer is a fantastic coach and it won’t be long before his services are snapped up by somebody a little more appreciative than his bosses in Maritzburg were. He’ll be just fine.

Making the Safa-affiliated Pro License a priority is a smart move on his part. Soon, every top-flight coach in the country will have to have obtained a Pro License, so the sooner you get it done, the better. I’m not entirely sure why Kadodia couldn’t see it that way, though. No, it is not ideal having a head coach missing out on time with his team. But why were the long term benefits of letting Palmer get his badges not seen? Instead, muscles were flexed and Palmer is left without a job.

We sure showed him. Except that now, we are left without a coach. Where United will see the loss most is in the motivation of the players who, as it turns out, are a pretty important part of a football team. Palmer respected the players and they respected him. When things were getting tough at the end of last year, the players went out onto that field and gave their all for their coach.

Palmer is a brilliant man-manager and he has the ability to raise commitment levels. I wonder how motivated the Team of Choice will be at their next training session under goalkeeper coach Ronnie Kanalelo, who has taken over as caretaker coach until a replacement for Palmer is found.

Kadodia says that he hopes to have four names of possible replacements on his shortlist by the end of today. We can only hope that whoever he finds hits the ground running and gets the players behind him immediately. Fortunately, there is still a month to go before United’s next fixture, so the sooner the new gaffer is hired the more time he will have to get to know his players.

With a new coach comes a new set of rules, different drills and a shift in tactical mindset. The players will have to adjust and how they make that adjustment will be crucial to where they finish the season. New management can either drastically improve or worsen performances. But when the mood in the camp is a happy one, as was the case under Palmer, a change is seldom a good thing.

Yes, results could have been better towards the end of last year, but Palmer has managed to guide United to a position where they are safe from the relegation scraps that occupy the bottom of the table. And when last could you say that? Another significant thing about Palmer’s sudden sacking is that United are supposedly in the process of buying a quality striker and bulking up their left midfield during the January transfer window. With no coach, who will decide which players are approached? The suits. The suits will decide.

It may not be a popular call, but it is a call that has been made. United must now look to the future and, first and foremost, find a coach who will be able to build on the good work that Palmer has done this season. And, with a little bit of luck, the new coach will be local so that we don’t have a situation where everybody is talking at a training session but nobody understands a word. Because the one thing United players need now more than ever is a little bit of understanding. Like understanding how their coach was sacked less than a week after being told that his job is safe. This should be explained to them. Heck, it should be explained to all of us. Because if you value the work that somebody is doing for you, you make sure that you do all you can to keep them around.

Who knows, maybe Kadodia has a cheeky little card up his sleeve and he knows something that we don’t. I doubt it, though. Palmer was about as good as you’ll find locally. And I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him. Something tells me that he’ll come back to Harry Gwala one day. But he won’t be sitting on the “home” bench when he does. We’ve cooked our goose there. Our loss.

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