Patience, or the lack of, in Malaysia and Thailand

Patience is a virtue they say, but it seems to be lacking sorely in the world of football, especially in Malaysia and Thailand... 

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Patience is in short supply in football. Arsenal may have had Arsene Wenger as head coach for 20 years but the club's fans booed their team off the pitch at the Emirates Stadium on the first day of the English Premier League season.

Wenger's longevity is a rarity in England and the other major European leagues where coaches usually come and go at a fair rate.

When it comes to the business of hiring and firing the men on the sidelines however, Thailand and Malaysia are increasingly setting the pace around the world.

Temperatures may be high across the year in South-east Asia but that is not the only reason why the region's hot seats are hotter than elsewhere.

Brave is the foreign coach who, at the start of the season, invites family over for a mid-campaign break. You can barely pick up a newspaper in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur without reading of another coach being dropped.

At the corresponding stage of the 2015-2016 English Premier League --with roughly just less than 20% of games remaining -- only six of the 20 top tier teams in England had changed the man in charge from when the first ball bad been kicked back in August. That is a turnover rate of 30%.

In Malaysia this year, it is 58%. Of the twelve coaches in place at the start of the 2016 Malaysia Super League season, only five remain with almost a fifth of the campaign still to play. 

Some have changed more than once like Mike Mulvey who was drafted in during March to take over Terengganu. 

“I don't settle for mediocrity,” Mulvey told FourFourTwo at the time. “I aim for excellence. I'll be looking for the club to gain stability with a plan within 18 months to get where we want to be.” He didn't last 18 weeks.

The Premier League of Thailand (PLT) is not far behind with a churn rate this season of 55%.

Mike Mulvey only got 18 weeks with Terengganu

Ten of the 18 clubs have changed coach since the first ball was kicked. Four of those have changed twice.

The latest of those is Afshin Ghotbi. The former Iranian national team boss was appointed by Buriram United in May. Three months, seven wins, six draws and two losses later, he is out.

Buriram had been a relative oasis of calm with former coach Alexandre Gama lasting almost two years before being let go 12 weeks ago.

The Brazilian had won two successive league titles but paid the price this year. United were never in the running this season and the club endured a torrid Asian Champions League campaign.

Ghotbi was unable to get the Thunder Castles back into the race though with Muangthong United and Bangkok United winning almost every game, it was never going to happen.

Gary Stevens, former coach of Thai clubs Army United and Port FC, believes that stability is the key.

Tiago Jensen was one of the first to be rested this season in Malaysia

“I hope everyone is looking at Mano Polking at Bangkok United,” the ex-England international told FourFourTwo. “It is his third season and every year, they have got better and they are right up there. He is a good coach and knows his players well. They gave given him time. That is what every coach needs.”

Buriram demand success. Yet, by any standard, three months is no time at all for a foreign coach coming to the country for the first time.

Issey Nakajima joined Terengganu on Malaysia's east coast in April 2015 and the attacker is already on his fourth coach.

“I have played for 13 teams or so in my career,” the Canadian international told FourFourTwo. “When a foreign player comes to a new country, it takes at least two, three, even six months to get to know the players, the style, the timing and movement. It takes time to settle and I think it is the same for coaches.”

The constant turnover of coaches may help agents but is rarely beneficial and often expensive. Clubs blame the coach for poor results, make a change, things improve for a while but then dip again and the change is made again.

Nakajima believes coaches need more time

"It's counter-productive,” said Stevens. “... If you have appointed a coach and suddenly realise you have got it wrong, of course, you have to change. But if you keep appointing the wrong person then when is the chief executive going to be sacked? Of course, sometimes it is the owners and you have to say it is their money.”

Talking to coaches in the region, past and present, two problems are pointed out.

One is that, especially for foreign tacticians, increasing job insecurity may result in the better candidates thinking twice.

More importantly, when everyone knows that the job is likely to be short-term, there is little incentive for a coach to plan for anything beyond the immediate.

The fact is that only one team can be champion as Stevens points out.

“Look at England. There are so many great coaches at the moment – Mourinho, Guardiola, Conte, Klopp, Wenger and others. Only one of them can win the league but perhaps that is the target of four or five of them. Will the rest be failures? Are they suddenly bad coaches?”

If they were in Thailand or Malaysia, the chances are they wouldn't be around for long.