News broke out last week that Melbourne Hearts inaugural coach, Dutchman John van’t Schip, has decided not to continue his tenure and go home at the end of the season for family reasons.
Early in the week he spoke to the media and had this to say, “I see my path now (being) somewhere else, I don’t know yet where and what it’s going to be,” van’t Schip said. “But I will take, for sure, all the happy moments and the good feeling with me. It’s something I will never forget.
“I know that I don’t see my future in Australia to live here (for life); I’ve got too much of a background in Europe. “With other personal things going on, family and my daughter, I made the decision with my wife to go back. “At the end, we’re all professionals and we all have to make decisions like I’m making now … and we head on and follow our path of life. That’s how it goes.”
The challenge to start a club from scratch against opponents that had been running for over five years was a significant one on top of the fact he was coming from overseas with little knowledge of the Australian football landscape. Many have focused on his significant pay packet, over double the size of many of his A League counterparts and his results ratio up to this point of 15 wins, 16 draws and 18 losses, is open to scrutiny. So is some of his recruiting.
Last year the team suffered with the ageing trio of Aloisi, Sibon and Skoko way past their best and Maycon has been a disappointment but many inside the game believe his work will leave behind a legacy when he departs. How so? Whether Heart goes on to win this season’s title or not is in many ways immaterial. When one gazes beyond the A-League table and weekly results, Heart is the A-League club that closest resembles a European club and van’t Schip has played no small part in this.
The professional, ethical approach to training, operating and the style of play coupled with the amount of opportunities he has given young players has created a strong foundation for the club moving forward. I have had the pleasure to meet the man and he has always carried himself as a gentlemen and a professional. Seldom have you seen van’t Schip blame his players or poor refereeing, he has always tackled and assessed matches in a matter of fact, educated pragmatic way, taking out the raw emotions and side-stepping the temptation for post-match flippant remarks.
His ability to target young players and blood them in by showing them faith has produced some outstanding results: Eli Babalj, Curtis Good, Mate Dugandzic, Aziz Behich and Brendan Hamill have all laid solid foundations for successful European careers and if Heart plays its cards right at the negotiating table, it will recoup van’t Schip’s salary in transfer fees and then some.
Heart football director John Didulica, at the time when he was signed, proudly claimed, “We have not signed a marquee player this year, our Dutch coach is our marquee.”
When I spoke to him this week he made it clear there is still a championship to play for but had this to say about the man he has worked closely with for two and a half years, “Melbourne Heart and Australian football has been lucky to have a coach of the stature of John van’t Ship in our country. He has built a legacy and we hope to continue it.” The challenge for Heart now, is his successor to carry on the strong foundations laid by van’t Schip and ensure the intangible momentum created within the club is maintained and hopefully to start showing results on the scoreboard.
The next coach will not have the same honeymoon period to work within as his Dutch predecessor. The dynamics of the club moving forward into the third year, the requirement to produce on and off the park to start making Heart a viable entity both commercially and footballing wise will dictate a different type of pressure for the incoming manager.
He of course will have the momentum built by van’t Schip, so most in football will expect him to hit the ground running. All that is left for the van’t Ship Australian experience is a strong finish to the season to play finals football to ensure that he boasts some success on the score board as well as the culture he has produced within the club.
Neos Kosmos wish Melbourne Heart and John van’t Schip the very best for the rest of the reason and all within the Australian football community know he has left the game here better for the experience of having him work within the A-League.