McKinna – A True Leader

December 31, 2014 at 11:17 am 3 comments

We hear in sport, although rarely these days, of players being a one-club man. Where their loyalty is rooted in one club that they played for. Some may move on but their heart remains with that one club.

It is not that often you can say the same about a coach. It is therefore great to see that former Central Coast Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna is one such man.

Sure after leaving the club and becoming the mayor of Gosford, where the club is based he was always going to still have dealings for the club, but his drive and effort behind the “Stand Up for the Mariners” is to be applauded.

Sadly many fans will forget McKinna’s achievements as a coach at the Central Coast Mariners. In the inaugural season of the A-League McKinna steered the Mariners to third on the table and into the Grand Final, which they lost to Sydney FC. They also won the pre-season cup beating Perth Glory the first year and losing to Adelaide United on penalties the second year. After a disappointing second season McKinna steered the club to their first Premiership, they once again lost the Grand Final this time to Newcastle Jets. In 2008-09 season three defeats in the last three rounds saw the team finish fourth, but they were eliminated in the finals by Brisbane Roar. McKinna had laid some solid foundations for his successor Graham Arnold to build on and after a second premiership they finally won a Championship.

Despite spells in China coaching McKinna’s heart is still very much with the Mariners and he is fighting for the fans for the club to stay in the area. Owner Mike Charlesworth has angered fans by saying he plans to take four games away from the seaside town and play them in Sydney to as he says “broaden his fan base.”

There is no doubt the Mariners are struggling this season and as a result crowds are bound to be affected, but as we have seen with other clubs around the country attention should turn to the administration and a question should be asked are the off field management truly up to the task? This may sound a harsh criticism but once again we are seeing a club’s owner state that he needs crowds of 11,000 – 12,000 to make it worthwhile to stay at Gosford.

No doubt this figure is based on a season in which the side is doing well, as in previous years, and finals are almost assured, but surely you have to also plan for a worst case scenario where you may get a string of players injured and results go against you and crowds drop?

Sometimes football clubs forget that they are in the entertainment business today. Sure there will be loyal fans who will pay their money every week to come and watch win, lose, or draw, and no matter the style of football on offer, but there will not be 11,000 of them. When things are not going well you have to work harder at bringing fans through the turnstiles.

Incredibly top of the table Perth Glory, who one would expect would be packing them in with the style of football they are playing and the results that they have achieved, had to resort to a ‘special’ via social media site Groupon. For $20 you could buy a match ticket and would also be given a club T-shirt.

Perth Glory has been criticised in the past for not being pro-active in trying to pull supporters into the stadium, and as sad as it is that the club on top of the league table has to do this, at least they are trying to swell the gate.

In an article in the Australian newspaper earlier this week McKinna hit on one of the key problems facing A-League clubs when it comes to filling stadia. McKinna said the attendance increase of 55% as a result of the “Stand up for the Mariners” campaign was a “clear message’’ the fans were prepared to support the club in good numbers, and then came the key phrase, ‘but that they needed to be engaged properly.’

McKinna has been a fan, he has been a professional player, he has played at semi-pro level, been an assistant coach, as well as a head coach, so he knows the game. One of the problems around the country is not enough of the administrators ‘know the game’ and understand how fans feel. Or even how clubs and local players feel when it comes to being engaged and feeling a part of the one major club in their city.

Football in Australia needs more Lawrie McKinnas. Sadly they are few and far between. Many ex players are looking simply for the next pay day or to prolong a privileged life in football. This is where the administrators earn their money finding out who is passionate about the game to go those extra yards for the game and the club. It was the first thing that the great Bill Shankly did when he took over at Liverpool did. He interviewed every single employee to find out how passionate they were about the club, and what it meant to them. Those who had that passion to do whatever it took to get Liverpool to the top stayed, those to whom it was a job left.

Lawrie McKinna is a shining light and let us hope for the Mariners his campaign pays dividends not just for the people of Gosford but for the A-League and football in general. Moving the team will not solve any problems, look at Wimbledon in England, and the Oakland Raiders in the NFL who finally returned home after a 12 year stint in Los Angeles in 1995. The Mariners are a Central Coast team and on the Central Coast they must stay.


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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ryan  |  January 1, 2015 at 7:12 am

    I think with CCM that the main problem is that their catchment area just isn’t that big. When they were at their top, and getting their best numbers I think that was the limit as to what they can get. I personally think that yes, there should be a Central Coast team but they, and those running the league, need to realise that they are not going to be much better than 10k/average a season, much like Wellington. So they need to build the club with those expectations and temper the costs accordingly.

    Glory could and probably should have average crowds of a realistic ~12k when you consider how much Perth has grown in last 15 years. But you can’t have an A-League full of mismanagement and expect people to flock back to join a bandwagon. People aren’t that fickle.

    Fully agree with you about footballers wanting to prolong their privilege in football. It’s why we don’t necessarily see those with the best punditry skills on tv, but those with the best connections. It’s what allows someone who is a legend in the local game, spent so much time involved in it do something so against the spirit of the game locally, like Jason Petkovic joining the FW board whilst still involved with a club.

  • 2. Paul  |  January 2, 2015 at 9:47 am

    RE: Perth fans not turning up in droves to see the Glory flying high, says more about the fans and football consumers than the club and it’s respective administrations. Only killing the live broadcast in Perth when in Perth (that will never happen) would fix that. Meanwhile we die hard 6000 members and the almost 4000 extra diehards that do turn up – like their Glorious club are the pride of West Australia. COG

  • 3. notthefootyshow  |  January 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Ryan thanks for your comment I agree 100% with you. The catchment area is supposedly why Mike Charlesworth is looking at the North Shore, but in my view if he is looking at pulling in fans from there he must invest in that area as Nick Tana did when he put on buses from Rockingham and Mandurah. If you simply rely on people to come as Paul alludes it will not happen.

    Paul, I agree to a point. The owner of Perth Glory has turned a great many away, as has continual poor management. I have spoken to many former members who have said they will not return until Tony Sage leaves and now only go on and off rather than almost every week.

    I applaud those who go every week, and the fact the club has pulled in the most numbers for many a year, but there is still a long way to go before the club reaches the public consciousness of yesteryear. Sadly it is no longer a “hot ticket” maybe because of television, maybe – and this is my opinion – the A-League peaked around season four and has been very poor the past three seasons with the exception of two to three teams.


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