Timing is crucial in football. The aftermath of Al Wahda’s shock decision to dispense with coach Jose Peseiro has proven this maxim.
An epic penalty loss to Qatar’s Al Sadd in successor Sami Al Jaber’s debut saw the Clarets fail to reach the AFC Champions League group stage, while a 4-1 Arabian Gulf League thrashing at third-bottom Sharjah followed last weekend.
The whys and wherefores of the choice to bin Peseiro have been well aired already.
This was a man who had taken the club from distant mid-table on arrival in winter 2013 to second last term, a 20-match unbeaten top-flight being registered along the way.
Judging by results alone, the Portuguese should never have been sacked.
But when a fracture appears between a coach and senior management, there can only ever be one winner.
Peseiro’s vetoing of the pursuit of Australia star Tim Cahill was valiant, but seemingly doomed him to his fate.
A change of course by the Clarets was always likely from that point.
In hindsight, their choice to draft in a new boss seems shortsighted at best.
Two damaging losses in a week have seen their continental dreams disappear this term and threaten next season’s.
It is all too easy to now jump to the conclusion that Al Jaber is not cut out for the post, doing a shocking disservice to one of Asian football’s greateast-ever figures.
The 42-year-old possesses gravitas in abundance, plus experience of European football as a player and assistant coach.
An unforgivably short one-season spell in charge of Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal ended with the sack, despite gaining the 2013-14 Saudi Federation Cup and runners-up spots in the Crown Prince Cup and Saudi Professional League.
Al Jaber is clearly no mug.
Once Wahda made the brutal decision to let Peseiro go, they moved swiftly to secure an ideal replacement.
The concession of two late goals at home to Emirates Club to draw 2-2 on February 8 proved a politically-apt moment.
Their cataclysmic error was in the period of the season they decided to make the switch. Al Sadd are a superb side, ACL quarter-finalist last term.
The Al Nahyan Stadium-outfit needed to be at their optimum to stand any chance of progression.
The fact they came painfully close last week to pulling off the result is to Al Jaber’s immense credit.
Any coach nursing troops drained in body and mind after their midweek disappointment could have suffered the result that followed at Sharjah.
The fit of pique to dispense with Peseiro saw the club sacrifice a continental campaign that could have done so much for a young team that is enjoying rapid development.
The ripples from Peseiro’s exit will long continue to cause disruption.
Ali the only man to lead the UAE
A month was all it took for the UAE Football Association to come to their senses and reward coach Mahdi Ali for his continued brilliance.
The 49-year-old was arguably the coach of the Asian Cup, defeating holders Japan on the way to securing third spot.
Huge plaudits across the continent and beyond were gained by the former international midfielder for allowing a young side to fulfil their destiny.
Make no mistake, there is no better or more worthy man to guide this gifted generation to the 2018 World Cup.
The silence had been deafening about Ali’s future, repeat talk of an extension to a deal which was to expire in July previously coming to nothing.
He deserved huge reward for his efforts and a public show of faith for what he has achieved in developing this group of players from promising youngsters, to
impressing at the London 2012 Olympics, winning the 2013 Gulf Cup and excelling Down Under.
UAE officials insisted the lack of agreement had nothing to do with the upcoming 2016 board elections, that could have seen a manager well into a lengthy contract put upon a regime that didn’t want him.
But who could be better for the Whites job than Ali?
All too often, expensive foreign options are taken by impatient Middle Eastern nations. Ali’s homegrown success has proven a welcome alternative.
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