by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
After a one hour board meeting several days ago, Matthew Knights was informed that his coaching contract, which will cost the club almost one million dollars in a payout, had been terminated. Knights, who has been under pressure in recent weeks and has been harshly criticized on talkback radio, in the media (including former champion players James Hird, Matthew Lloyd and former coach Kevin Sheedy) and on fan websites, apparently learned of the meeting through the media. After the meeting, Knights and his manager Daniel Richardson were summoned by the board to receive the bad news. One item on the agenda which came as a surprise to Knights was that a number of key senior players, including veteran defender Dustin Fletcher had lost faith in him.
Chairman David Evans and CEO Ian Robson expressed disappointment that information had been leaked to the media. Club officials are also concerned that irate anti-Knights supporters could cause a split among board members. Knights' manager said anyone interested in the job of senior coach should be cautious because of the influence of former players and supporter groups, whom he believed helped bring about Knights being fired. Richardson was quoted as saying "... this club's got a major issue ..." with "... a board with a direct line to the media ..." and "... past players and coterie members who think they are running the club ...". He expressed his sympathy for Evans and Robson in dealing with such an unstable situation.
In making the announcement, Evans acknowledged Knights' efforts to rebuild the team list and thanked him for his contribution to the Bombers, but said the lack of progress was the reason for letting Knights go. He denied that outside pressure from supporters had influenced the board's decision. He stated his admiration for Knights by saying that Knights had "... conducted himself ... with the utmost passion, commitment and courage, and ... has shown grace under considerable pressure." He also acknowledged the fact that Knights had taken over from Kevin Sheedy, the longest serving and most successful coach in the club's history.
Knights played 279 games for the Richmond Tigers from 1988 to 2002. He then coached SANFL team Port Adelaide and Essendon's VFL affiliate Bendigo before being appointed as Sheedy's replacement.
Several candidates are already lining up for the job. Among them are former Port Adelaide coach Mark Williams who views the job as "... a refreshing change of scenery ..." and a challenge. Williams, who served as an assistant to Sheedy before crossing to Port Adelaide, described Essendon as a sleeping giant with potential. He was sounded out as a potential replacement for Sheedy in 2007. Other potential candidates are assistant coach Alan Richardson and former North Melbourne coach Dean Laidley, now an assistant at Port Adelaide. Laidley wants to return to Melbourne for personal reasons.
Source: Cara Pelchen, Club Media Release; theage.com.au
Article last changed on Wednesday, September 01, 2010 - 5:51 AM EDT