Update: SBS Sport website to
become home
of all our sport
content on 09/08/2021.

Kewell the coach should leave Europe for Australia

Could a return to the A-League be on the cards for Harry Kewell Source: Getty Images

It was almost inevitable that Harry Kewell would end up being fired by Oldham Athletic sooner rather than later.

The Australian is the seventh manager to come, and now go, since Abdallah Lemsagam took charge of the Greater Manchester club in 2018. All in all, there have been 15 in six years. Kewell lasted longer than most.

Faced with such instability, Kewell does not seem to have done too badly and the reaction from fans at the club largely backs that up.

He recovered after a poor start to climb the table before a recent poor run sent the Latics slipping down the standings. It is clear however that there are deeper structural issues at the club that were never going to be solved by Kewell in just a few months, even if they could have been solved at all.

It can be under-estimated just how hard it is to manage in England’s lower leagues even at a club run with more stability than Oldham.

There are lots of proud clubs with plenty of history who, like Oldham, still remember better days and dream of higher divisions. The reality is often one of players on short-term contracts who come and go at a rapid rate.

Oldham brought in an amazing 23 players this season. More experienced coaches than Kewell, still just 42, would not have known where to start especially when you throw in a global pandemic.

Kewell probably should have skipped away from the initial offer and shown Oldham a clean pair of heels. The danger is that when you are fired from a team sitting in 85th in the overall Football League standings, getting a plum job will not be easy.

Playing for Leeds, Liverpool and at World Cups will help a little but that stardust fades over time and doubly so after each coaching job.

It is to be hoped that Kewell’s ambitions in this field have not dimmed. He is one of the few members of the golden generation to give it a go. It is easier to move into media, consulting or a different direction but Australia and Asia need coaches with European experience as a player but especially as a coach.

So it makes sense for Kewell to head to the A-League. He spent his formative playing years in Europe before returning home just before the boots were hung up. As a coach, he should head in the opposite direction.

Kewell is unlikely to get any coaching job in the top two tiers of English football any time soon. Even the third tier may be tricky after recent events. Best to return to Australia when the next suitable job arises and he would almost certainly get a better job in the A-League than he would in England.

It is not just about the club but what he can do when he is there. As mentioned above, there is an awful lot of tinkering involved in the lower leagues with players coming and going on a regular basis. It can become almost impossible to actually build a team as you are putting out fires and never have the chance to craft something. Not just that but there are 46 league games in League Two for Oldham, squeezed together in a shorter than usual time frame. You play, recover, then play again.

The A-League should offer a more rewarding experience in this regard. The pace of life is slower.

In Australia, Kewell would have much more time to actually train his players. Not only is it easier to build a team and keep it together but actually spending time with the players to instil a style and philosophy would be welcome after experiencing the frantic atmosphere of League Two.

But that English experience will give him something that most of his coaching compatriots do not have. Being fired is never nice but Kewell must have learnt more in his few months at Oldham than he could at any coaching course.

Throw in the fact that he is still a giant name in Australian sport then he surely makes an irresistible choice for any CEO in the A-League who is looking for a new pair of hands at the helm in the coming months or years.