Farewell Albert; we hardly knew you

Happier times – celebrating the 4-0 win against Chiang Mai United

What a strange season this has been.

CMFC were top of Thai League 2 after eight games – and fired our head coach.

We were fourth after seventeen games; just two points off the automatic promotion places and fired our head coach.

And then we went a step further and fired our general manager who has looked after all the behind the scenes needs of the club and players since May 2021.

Officially Mr. Garcia resigned. You can make you own mind up about how likely that is. Khun Bubet’s departure has not been announced by the club. That is poor after over 2 years as General Manager.

Of course it will not just be these two senior staff who leave; we have to assume that Ivan, the assistant/fitness coach brought in by Mr. Garcia and their Spanish, Thai, English translator have also moved on.

Five days after Fukuda’s dismissal the club put out a video interview with the owner giving his explanation of the change. At the same time he also discussed the appointment of Albert Garcia; an appointment that had clearly been in the works sometime before Fukuda was dismissed.

On Facebook many of the CMFC squad left sincere message of thanks to Fukuda that highlighted not just his coaching ability but also his own inherent decency.

With Garcia’s departure there has been silence. Nothing from the players. No explanation from the club. Have they all been muzzled? Was Garcia that disliked? I doubt we will find out.

There was a video released by the club last Friday – an interview with Stenio Junior. The timing was dire. There was no mention of the departures of  the new coach and the GM. Questions that really had to be asked for a transparent assessment of the state of  the club.

Whoever succeeds Garcia has a number of issues to deal with.

He, or she, has an inexperienced owner who seeks to control every aspect of the club. That must make the coach’s role especially difficult and was almost certainly why Fukuda has to leave.

The new coach (assuming that it is not an internal appointment) will arrive at the club with the mid-season transfer window already underway. There is very little time to assess the squad’s strengths and weaknesses and determine who, if anyone, should leave and who, if anyone, should be added to the squad.

The first game of the second leg is under a week away. For now there is some continuity with Khun Jakkapan and Khun Golf to coach and train the side in the interim but change feels inevitable.

There was plenty of fanfare when Albert Garcia was appointed head coach. We were told he was the best of the three candidates interviewed. We were told he had identified potential replacements for the transfer window. The changes would all make the team better said the owner.

It was also his first time in Thailand. His coaching experience at a senior level was basically at Wuhan in the surreal environment of Covid enforced lockdowns and restrictions.

For Mr. Garcia it must have been a great opportunity to return to Asia and to build his coaching credentials at an ambitious, well supported Thai club.

To his credit he did front up to post game media interviews; something that Fukuda had given up on; by choice or by instruction? But whether with Khun Golf (English to Thai) or with his likeable translator (Spanish to Thai) he looked uncomfortable.

He appeared at his most comfortable in his technical area living every pass, every tackle, every attack. Winning was his feel good moment. The 4-0 win over Chiang Mi United was his cup final and he will be long remembered by Chiang Mai fans for that evening.

It seems awfully unlikely that the owner will put his hand up and say CMFC got this wrong. Who were the other candidates? In what ways was Garcia the best of the three?

Garcia inherited a very good T2 squad hampered only by injury to a few key players who are now making their way back into the team. Yet the squad seemed to generate their motivation from each other rather than from the coach – who maybe struggled to communicate his ideas into matchday reality.

Just as an example, Yoo ByungSoo is our leading goalscorer with nine so far this season; but eight of those goals were under Fukuda and just one on 29 October at home to Customs for Garcia. Our strong goal-scoring centreforward has recently looked a forlorn figure feeding on scraps. He has also had little help from some marginal (cough) offside decisions.

And so Mr. Garcia moves on. This must have been a chastening experience. Uprooting his family and career; moving half way around the world; for less than three months.  I wonder if he expected to be let go; I wonder it led to an angry red mist or a philosophical shrug of the shoulders. I hope it was the red mist.

He had little time for this facebook page – declining to be interviewed. That was a shame as after his time in China he clearly has a remarkable story to tell.  

The question now is who comes next; and given that the owner has already removed two coaches this season what reassurance can, or will, the incoming coach be given about their independence to make decisions; to pick the matchday team and the basis on which their performance will be objectively assessed.

2024 promises to be eventful.

Have a happy and peaceful new year.