By Kitian Sanguansak - AFF Thai correspondent
Former England and Manchester United captain Bryan Robson’s ill-fated reign as Thailand’s national team coach sums up the Football Association of Thailand’s rudderless management under guidance of Worawi Makudi.
Robson’s resignation from the national post hardly came as a surprise since it had long been a matter of when, not if, the inevitable would happen following a period of disappointment during the 54-year-old’s tenure, which lasted nearly two years.
People might have been pleased to see the back of the Englishman, who officially took over the national team from compatriot Peter Reid in October 2009. However, Robson has only been made as a scapegoat for Worawi’s abuse of power as the head of the FAT.
In fact, the course of events since Worawi, currently holding the FAT post on caretaker capacity since his term ended in December, had tied the future of Thai team with England with Reid’s appointment in September 2008 raised the question as to whether he ran the association with vested interest.
It certainly is normal for a nation to have a foreigner as its national team coach. The question, though, was why Thailand chose a coach from England, whose national side ironically has been coached by a foreigner since 2001, save for a small period in which Steve McLaren was in charge.
It even became doubly dubious why the FAT selected former Sunderland manager Reid and then Robson, two men whose managerial careers were on decline, for the job to revive the Thai team’s fortunes.
The circumstances of the appointment of those two English coaches looked just as suspicious since it happened during the period when England started its bidding campaign to host the World Cup in 2018. The fact that Worawi was one of the FIFA’s powerful 24-member executive committee, who decided the Cup hosts, appeared to provide the explanation why Thailand’s relationship with England in term of football became closer than ever.
When it became clear that Robson was out of depth with a run of poor results, culminating in the premature exit in the recent ASEAN Championship, the FAT opted to turn deaf on the calls, which appeared to grow louder each day, for his resignation.
That led many to question whether a rumour, that the English FA was Robson’s real employer, had something to do with the FAT’s preference to keep the Englishman, whose coaching career included stints at Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United.
The timing of Robson’s resignation looked suspicious for Worawi, as it came when his ties with England became strained following the bribery allegation against him made by David Triesman, the former chairman of the English FA and England’s 2018 World Cup bid team.
Even though Worawi was absolved from the accusation that he asked for the TV rights of Thailand’s home friendly with England, there was lingering doubt that Triesman’s revelations might be true since it was an open secret that the game in question, which was later cancelled by the English FA, was a part of deal the Thai had to support England in the voting.
Worawi confirmed that Robson’s resignation had nothing to do with the row with the English FA triggered by Triesman’s accusations and the two parties parted company in an amicable manner. His cause, though, was not helped by a report that Robson was unhappy with the FAT’s failure to arrange more international fixtures for the Thai team as requested.
How is it possible for a team to embark on its World Cup qualifying campaign next month when it has not played a match since the turn of the year? That is the case for the Thai national team.
Worawi might blame the FAT’s current vacuum of power for the Thais’ plight. However, there indeed would have been a new president by now had it not for his controversial decision to call off the election last month.
With Robson now gone, who will take responsibility for wasting two years for nothing?