Branko Culina apparently had no idea he was hours away from being sacked as Newcastle Jets coach, when he was all smiles at the A-League launch.
As one of Australia’s most experienced soccer coaches sat among his peers at the A-League’s official season launch, he was all smiles and upbeat about the upcoming campaign.
‘It’s been terrific,’ said Culina during a coaches’ QA session of life in the Nathan Tinkler era.
‘We’ve got a new owner and when you’ve got a new owner, new ideas and new enthusiasm around the club.
‘We’re trying to turn the team into a club and it’s on the right track.’
Not the words of a man who knew little more than an hour later, he’d be out of a job.
As far as shock sackings go, surely none in recent memory could top that of Branko Culina’s demise at the Newcastle Jets.
It’s understood Culina received a call on Monday to set up a meeting on Tuesday with owner Tinkler and Tinkler sports group chief executive Troy Palmer.
While exactly what transpired in that meeting, held shortly after the launch, remains unclear, the end result is Culina is now unemployed.
The timing of the sacking, just four days out from the Jets’ season opener against Melbourne Heart, would be hard to swallow.
That Culina’s last hours as Jets coach were spent fulfilling his duty at the season launch, enthusiastically discussing the team’s prospects after Jets powerbrokers had surely already made up their mind, is brutal.
The shock announcement overshadowed Football Federation Australia’s launch of the most highly-anticipated season yet.
It also left the Jets rocked on the eve of the new season.
But if the Jets players were rattled, they weren’t showing it on Tuesday afternoon as they returned to training as normal.
‘It’s not ideal timing but the powers that be thought they wanted it to happen like this,’ veteran midfielder Kasey Wehrman said.
‘We all know it’s not ideal but when is it ideal to be sacked?
‘It’s never an ideal situation .. it’s like breaking up with a girlfriend, there’s never a good day to do it.
‘It’s done now, we just need to get on with the job.’
by Buford Balony