Caretaker City coach Buckingham seeking consistency in face of trying times

The circumstances confronting him are less than ideal, but fill-in City coach Des Buckingham is attempting to maintain as much routine as possible in the absence of full-time coach Patrick Kisnorbo.

In the midst of a successful first season in charge of the A-League leaders, Kisnorbo suffered a torn Achilles while playing in a charity match between Victoria Police Soccer Club ‘Copperoos’ and ex-Socceroos organised by South Melbourne as part of their annual Tony Clarke Memorial Day.

The day honours Senior Constable and South Melbourne member Tony Clarke, who was murdered while serving Victoria Police in 2005. 

With Kisnorbo undergoing surgery on Sunday and requiring at least a week of rest, his assistant will now set to step up into the breach.  

Buckingham previously served as interim-boss of Wellington Phoenix following the resignation of Ernie Merrick during the 2014-15 season – becoming, at 31-years-old, the youngest head coach in A-League history in the process – and also served as boss of City against Western Sydney Wanderers earlier in 2020-21 after Kisnorbo was waylaid with food poisoning. 

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Across those stints he has won seven, drawn six and lost seven games, good for a 35% winning record. The now-36-year-old has also served as a youth coach with English side Stoke City and as boss of New Zealand’s U20 and U23 sides. 

Set to to lead City for, at least, their fixture against Perth Glory on Wednesday and Brisbane Roar on Sunday, the Oxford-born gaffer has effectively been handed the keys to a Maclaren and told not to crash it: Premiership favourites City able to go six points clear on the A-League table should they down Glory. 

“[Preparation has been] pretty consistent,” Buckingham said on Tuesday. “Everything we’ve done all season, there won’t be change. 

“Everything that we’ve done from the training field to the presentations to the messaging is continuing. That doesn’t change on a daily basis. We’re very consistent with how we deliver on the field, so there’s no real change in that respect. 

“In terms of contact, [Kisnorbo is] on the phone, I spoke to him already this morning and I’ll speak to him again this evening. 

“Firstly to check in on him and make sure he’s ok and then just make sure if there’s anything in particular that he wants to drive home for messages or drive into the training sessions itself then we can make sure we can do that. 

“We try and do as many ‘what if?’ scenarios of planning for substitutions or maybe planning for the state of the game and things that may or may not happen. 

“Then there’s [also] an element of managing the game as you see it from the field [that Buckingham will have full scope over until Kisnorbo’s return]. 

“It’s a combination of the two of them. You can’t cover off every ‘what if?’ situation but we try and cover off as many as we can and that’s for every game – not just this one.”

The absence of Kisnorbo isn’t the only headache facing City, however.

As a result of restrictions put in place by the West Australian state government after cases of COVID-19 community transmission in the state, Wednesday’s meeting between Glory and City is set to take place behind closed doors at HBF Park. 

“I want to avoid going into lockdown again,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said on Sunday. “I know how much it can impact people’s lives and businesses but if we need to go back into lockdown we will. That decision will be based on the latest health advice.”

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Having received permission to fly out and return to Victoria, City – who with the exception of injured defender Nathanial Atkinson possess a clean bill of health – will embark for Perth on Tuesday afternoon. At this stage, the club has received no indication that their game against Roar will be effected by their trip to WA.

“We’ve got permission to go and permission to come back,” said Buckingham. “We’ll just hope that nothing blows up while we’re there that could impact anything. 

“We’re fortunate that we’ve got a very good and mature group of players. What’s got us to where we are has been the way we’ve gone about what we’ve done both on and off the field.

“It’s very behavior driven and they manage themselves extremely well in that respect. So, for me, it’s a continuation of trying to do that. That will be the messaging this morning.

“We need to make sure we continue [against Glory] our physical output and our work rate first and foremost. 

“That’s been a real cornerstone of the success we’ve had to this point and then it’s the quality of what we do. We’re trying to become more consistent in how we play and I think we’ve started to string a bit more of that together both in possession and out. 

“And then just recognising the strengths of Perth, especially the front four they’re able to put on the field. Being ready and set up to be able to deal with that without it too much affecting our game plan.”

After joining City on an injury replacement deal for Atkinson last week, fullback Daniel Georgievski looms as a possible addition to the squad for the trip across the Nullarbor, Buckingham indicating that the decision on the Macedonian international’s inclusion would be made following Tuesday’s training session. 

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne City

One thought on “Caretaker City coach Buckingham seeking consistency in face of trying times

  1. Pingback: Ice baths, flexibility and prickly pears – Rostyn Griffiths ready for City’s busy stretch – Joey Lynch

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