Popovic opens up on Turkish drama
A PHLEGMATIC Tony Popovic insists he has no regrets about leaving the security of the Wanderers to try coaching in Turkey, despite being sacked after less than three months in the job.
Speaking for the first time since his contract was terminated at Karabukspor last month, Popovic lifted the curtain on the implosion at the Super Lig club that left no executives in charge and players unpaid within 10 days of his arrival.
Viewing his brief taste of Europe as a hothouse of man-management experience, he outlined his recalibrated coaching ambitions - including the possibility of involvement in the national team.
Decamping to Turkey at the start of October with assistants Zeljko Kalac and Andres Carrasco, Popovic watched dumbfounded as the entire club hierarchy quit less than a fortnight later.
"I don't have any regret at all in taking the job," Popovic said.
"Everything I've done in my coaching career has had a risk attached to it. There was a risk attached when I went to Crystal Palace as an assistant when they were in the relegation zone.
"There was a big risk going from a very good job there to take over a new club (at Western Sydney) that didn't even have a team.
"This one was a risk, no doubt, with the history of the club and the changes they make. But I don't have regrets taking it - I do over what happened after 10 days of being there, when the president, sports director, football director, general manager, all quit.
"Everyone associated with bringing me over to try to change things, they all left and we spent nine weeks without anyone in the football department at all.
"There were obvious issues with the players as well. No one knew if they were staying or going, they're not getting paid, there's no direction. In the end the results weren't there and the coach is the one who usually suffers then."
As players complained to the Turkish FA about unpaid wages, the club tried three times to bring in a new board, only succeeding at the fourth attempt.
"That period of three months has certainly improved me as a manager and a coach," Popovic said.
"You see things that you don't imagine you'll ever see; managing a group of players but also getting them to train and play at a certain level when they feel promises have been made and broken far too often.
"Now we're seeing that maybe 12 of the 14 foreigners are leaving. We tried to get the best out of them, but we needed a few results to lift the players' confidence and keep them motivated."
Popovic has lined up observer visits to various European clubs while he mulls over the future.
"I want to get back into coaching as soon as possible; there's a few things happening," he said.
"It could be something that comes up in the next week or so that could entice me to stay for longer, or take on something for five months until June.
"In my mind, I really want to have something for June/July. If I get something before that, it's a bonus. Europe is certainly my priority; whether it can happen in January or June, or will come through the journey but at a later time, I'm not sure. That dream won't end; I've had a taste for it."
There is one obvious vacancy, with Popovic among those mentioned as a replacement for Ange Postecoglou with the Socceroos.
"Of course it's on my radar one day, but I haven't spoken to anyone and it's not something I'm waiting for," he said.
"If there's a job for me in Europe tomorrow that I thought was right, I'd take it tomorrow. If I was part of the Socceroos equation, that's for FFA to decide. I'd love to do it one day, and the opportunity would be a great honour. I can only deal with what's in front of me now."