SYDNEY FC players are struggling to come to terms with the shock resignation of coach Ian Crook and believe they must take their share of the blame for the club's poor start to the season.
Crook stood down from his post on Sunday after the club's second gut-wrenching loss in the space of a week. On Saturday night, the Sky Blues let slip a two-goal lead, conceding three goals in the final 12 minutes as bitter rivals Melbourne Victory stole the points. The defeat came just seven days after their record 7-2 thrashing at the hands of Central Coast Mariners.
Young forward Blake Powell said the players should take their share of responsibility for the club's plight. ''I feel like I've let down Crook a bit,'' Powell said. ''If we had the right results, we wouldn't be talking about this. I feel a bit accountable for what happened. I also feel very sad. I hoped that I could spend the whole two years with Crook. He's a great coach.''
The players were informed of Crook's decision to quit at their recovery session on Sunday morning and Powell admitted the news was ''very hard'' to accept. The 21-year-old was one of many talented youth players who were promoted to the first team under Crook's tenure and believes the Englishman's resignation is a blow to the club's aspirations for the season.
''I owe a bit to Ian Crook, obviously he's given me my chance, so me personally, I'm very grateful for what he's done,'' Powell said. ''We had a chat, everyone is pretty sad obviously, as you can imagine.''
The players had no indication that Crook was set to leave following the loss to the Victory and Powell said no members of the squad had voiced concerns with the former coach's methods to him. Despite their form slump, Powell says Crook still had the complete faith of the players.
''No I didn't expect anything. We were very disappointed, we copped three goals, we were pretty disgusted, especially for the supporters.''
The road ahead for the Sky Blues will be as difficult as it is uncertain but Powell says it is an opportunity for the players to unify and display their strength of character. Assistant coach Steve Corica will lead the club in a caretaker role for Friday night's match against Brisbane Roar while the club embarks on a search for a permanent coach. But, the players believe the former Sydney FC captain has the ability to return the club to form in the short term.
''This is the time when we all just need to stick together as the league progresses. We've got Steve Corica, Zeljko Kalac to work out our problems and I'm sure they can do that,'' Powell said.
''It's been a tough day. They talked to us this morning, it was hard. It was pretty tough to hear that news.''
Pascal Bosschaart has publicly voiced his disappointment at Crook's departure and has thrown his support behind his former coach.
Crook bore the brunt of the criticism for the club's poor start to the A-League season but Bosschaart has defended him and urged the public to acknowledge the difficult task he faced in rebuilding the team.
''It's been I [sic] sad weekend. Lost the game. Leaving coach. I think Crookie deserves respect. Eleven new players. Short time. Great man,'' Bosschaart tweeted.
SHORT AND SWEET: CROOK'S SIX-GAME REIGN
Appointed, May 14
Ian Crook becomes Sydney FC’s sixth manager in eight seasons when he is hired after the club fails to lure Graham Arnold from Central Coast. Crook was previously the coach of Sydney FC’s youth team, and had worked as Pierre Littbarski’s assistant in the inaugural A-League season.
Wastes no time dipping into the transfer market, overseeing the signings of 10 players. The pre-season schedule takes a disastrous turn as four games are cancelled due to injuries and international call-ups. Most of the players are severely lacking match fitness by the start of the season.
Game 1: Wellington away
Debut match in charge ends in disappointment as Sydney lose 2-0 to the Phoenix – a scoreline that flatters the Sky Blues. A well-drilled Wellington side exposes Sydney’s lack of match fitness, while Crook’s side display a worrying lack of cohesion and understanding.
Game 2: v Newcastle (home)
In front of a club record crowd for a regular-season game, Sydney show glimpses of the fast-paced football Crook has been trying to build, although they are unorganised in defence. Crook shows he won’t stand on reputation when he substitutes captain Terry McFlynn.
Game 3: v West Sydney (away)
The inaugural Sydney derby will be the game Crook reflects on most fondly as the Sky Blues put in a dominant display of fluid football to beat the Wanderers 1-0. Crook drops several underperforming players and puts faith in youngsters — a move that brings immediate success.
Game 4: v Perth (home)
It may not have been pretty, but the Sky Blues scrape a hard-fought 2-1 win that suggests the players are beginning to find their rhythm. Crook’s team shows its strength of character to mount a second-half comeback against last season’s losing grand finalists.
Game 5: v Mariners (away)
Sydney are brought crashing down to earth with a humiliating 7-2 loss to the Mariners in Gosford. Their progress under Crook unravels in front of the coach’s eyes as the Sky Blues concede all seven goals in less than an hour after taking the lead early in the game.
Game 6: v Victory (home)
Heartbreak for Sydney and Crook as the Sky Blues storm to a comfortable 2-0 lead only to capitulate and concede three goals in 12 minutes. For the second week in a row, players hold back tears at the final whistle, while fans jeer Crook’s march down the tunnel.
Resigns, November 11
Tenders his resignation the morning after defeat to Victory — less than six months after taking the job. Says pressure of managing the club became a ‘‘burden’’ and started to affect his health. Crook departs despite pleas from chief executive Tony Pignata to stay.