Reds need a culture shock


Adelaide United has never allowed itself to develop a culture and now, more than ever, it needs one.

The manufactured nature of the A-League means the loss of the long-instilled cultures of the NSL clubs.

There is a high turnover of players and coaches, making club culture particularly hard to build, let alone define.

Australian players with ambition will always want to test themselves in bigger leagues with longer seasons, more teams, better players and of course bigger pay packets.

In the last 12 months, Adelaide United has lost midfielders Stefan Mauk, Jimmy Jeggo and Craig Goodwin to clubs in Europe as well as striker Bruce Djite to Asia.

Throw in Awer Mabil who moved to Denmark not long before.

Naturally players want to further their careers, chase international caps, challenge themselves and fill their pockets while they can in what can be a relatively short career.

Like all A-League sides - Adelaide is also up against the riches in Asia and the Middle East when it comes to attracting and retaining the most talented players.

Djite's loss prior to the season has been particularly damaging for the reigning champion.

The long-time club servant who played 133 games and scored 35 goals in two stints with the Reds was a leader on and off the park.

A battering ram who worked his guts out, often without receiving the plaudits - or goals - he deserved, Djite was an important figure for younger players and for those new to the club, league or even country.

A well-spoken, thoughtful and measured individual, Djite instilled a team culture that extended to hosting player get-togethers outside of those mandated by the club.

He matured as a player in Adelaide in his first stint in Red between 2006 and 2008, surrounded by club greats like Aurelio Vidmar, Carl Veart, Michael Valkanis, Travis Dodd, Ross Aloisi, Cassio and Angelo Costanzo.

He worked under the polarising John Kosmina and was surrounded by people like goalkeeper coach Peter Blazincic, trainer Peter Duke and kit steward Milan Sofranic - all long-time servants, the kind every club needs.

That only Duke remains at the club in 2017 says a lot about a club management which doesn't seem to value good, local, passionate individuals who know what it's like to represent all of those in South Australia who bleed Red.

AFL clubs look after their own. They find "jobs for the boys", insisting on keeping good people who can help a team grow in a club environment.

Adelaide United has never done that.

Greats like Aloisi and Dodd were moved on because of off-field decisions, Costanzo from his youth coaching role likewise.

Of the players listed above, only Valkanis and Vidmar left the club on their own terms.

Both had moved into coaching and left for better opportunities.

And while Valkanis is now at rival Melbourne City, Vidmar is exactly the kind of person the Reds now need.

Equal bottom of the ladder with just two wins this season and in desperate need of luck, goals and a spark, mentoring from one of the Adelaide United originals could be just the tonic.

Clubs greats are few and far between in the A-League, particularly as the competitor is still so young.

But that doesn't mean they don't exist and shouldn't be recognized and kept involved.

Other players like Richie Alagich and Lucas Pantelis have knowledge and experience that is too valuable to ignore.

Like the others mentioned above, they bled for the club and should not only be rewarded for that, but celebrated, and more importantly utilised.

Josep Gombau started something when he arrived in Adelaide a few years ago.

Guillermo Amor continued his work last season, culminating in the club's maiden Premiership and Championship double.

But in recent years the culture of Adelaide United has been eroded because so many good Adelaide United people are no longer involved.

Captain Eugene Galekovic has been around long enough to understand what wearing the logo means, and players like Spaniard Isaias and Tarek Elrich are starting to get there too but so many others around them need an education.

Regardless of who has been recruited by the club's football department or how much has been spent, regardless of who owns the club or who sits on its board, culture is vitally important.

Just look at Perth-based Super Rugby franchise the Western Force who recognized the importance of culture in announcing a specialized culture captain for 2017.

Ben McCalman and Heath Tessmann will share captaincy duties for the Force with McCalman responsible for on-field leadership and Tessman to look after team standards and culture.

That was similar to how it operated between Eugene Galekovic and Bruce Djite in 2015-16.

But who instills the culture this season and beyond?

Adelaide United's current ownership and board has been in place for six years, ample time to plan the club's direction, set its image and shape the internal expectations.

It appears it has failed to do so.

It must use the current struggle as a chance to define the club's culture and set it on a course for the long-term.

The board could do far worse than look to those who shaped the club, those who lived and breathed it in the past, like Aurelio Vidmar.*

*and hey while they're at it, grab a guy like Milan Ivanovic who played with Vidmar at Adelaide City and for the Socceroos, and learnt from top managers in Europe and in Australia, like the great Zoran Matic

#AdelaideUnited #Adelaide #ALeague #Reds #AUFC #BruceDjite #Vidmar #soccer #football

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