The news that Carl Robinson has signed a new contract with the Whitecaps through 2020 is both a huge vote of confidence in him from the Front Office and an attempt to imbue some stability at the club.
But stability isn’t the be all and end all of what a team should be; there has to be progress too and that was the missing element this year for the Whitecaps.
So if Carl Robinson were to give me a call and say “Russell, I need five bullet points on how to to improve in 2017. Can you help me?” I would say “Hey Carl! No I most definitely can’t because I’m an idiot but that’s a great idea for a really simple blog piece. Thanks!”.
And so we leave the coach staring disconsolately at his phone while we list five hastily thought through areas of possible development for the man in charge.
- Better targeted signings– In other words bringing in players who fit a specific system rather than bringing in players just because they are “good”. File Kudo in that category and maybe even Perez too. Robinson probably got lucky with his early moves and unlucky with his later ones but finding pieces for the gaps rather than pieces that need a gap creating for them has to be the priority now.
- Better in game management- Did I say “better”? Maybe I meant “braver”? Because there’s definitely a cautious side to Robinson that while having some advantages frequently limits his ability to change a game. Make an early substitution every now and then if only to keep the Whitecaps players on their toes. Change things around at half time if they aren’t going well. More active touchline coaching wouldn’t go amiss either but that’s probably my personal preference over anything of any actual value.
- Don’t always be defence counsel for the players- It’s fine to speak up for the team but not to the extent that stretches the bounds of credibility. Don’t say they played well when we all know they didn’t, don’t praise their character immediately after they’ve thrown away another three points. That’s also a good way to let the fans know that you are aware of the issues and are addressing them.
- Select the right captain– We can argue all day whether who the captain is really matters on the field but it does matter off it. Pedro Morales was never willing or able to give any kind of lengthy post game analysis and so it was left to others (I’m looking at you David Ousted) to step up to the plate. Could it also be that Pedro’s unwillingness to fulfill all the aspects of the role led to dissatisfaction among other players (I’m looking at you David Ousted)? Hard to say. But I’m betting it didn’t help.
- Embrace the hate- Or at least don’t be afraid to piss a few players off no matter what their salary or standing. This is related to point three I suppose but that toning down of public support when necessary needs to be aligned with ruthlessness in private. This season essentially proved that Robinson can’t trust all his players to either manage their own fitness or their own internal esprit de corps. Time to eschew the velvet glove for the iron fist.
Contract extension or no contract extension it’s hard to see Robinson surviving another season as bad as 2016 (in terms of performances if not results) so how he implements the lessons he says he has learned will essentially define how he is perceived as a coach.
Beyond the good news of the new contract that’s an awfully daunting situation to be in.