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by Kim Densham in Melbourne for AFANA

With Essendon's dismal season barely over, the Board acted swiftly, and as early as eight am Sunday morning, Essendon Board members moved to remove Matthew Knights as coach even though he had two years left on his contract. Talkback radio was awash with unconfirmed reports that chairman Evans drove round to CEO Ian Robson's house for an emergency meeting. By one pm today Knights was no longer coach.

David Evans issued the following statement :
"'We are here today to announce that the Essendon Board met this morning and have come to a decision today that Matthew will no longer be the coach of the Essendon Football Club.  We have met with Matthew today and have told him of our decision. As Chairman of the Club, I firstly want to say that at all times, Matthew has conducted himself at our club with the utmost passion, commitment and courage, and over the last few months he has shown grace under considerable pressure ... it has become very clear to the club that we have not made the progress we needed to make this year, and that we need a fresh start going into the new season. This lack of progress is the basis of the Board’s decision today ... We are a club used to success on and off the field. But we do face big challenges in the coming period - a new 18 team competition, decisions about our facility, and we need a plan for growing our revenue base and membership."

Knights' coaching record over the past three seasons is 37.3%. After 66 regular season games and one finals appearance, discontent amongst the red and black army was growing. Disheartening and gut wrenching losses to old enemies Carlton and Collingwood, then a loss to the Lions, followed by the last round loss to the Bulldogs, made it 15 losses for the season and only two wins from their last 12 games. The past few weeks also saw a media circus with James Hird being named as coach, former Port coach Mark Williams, his assistant and Geelong coach Mark 'Bomber' Thompson taking on a manager-style role. Hird's comments that one day he would love to coach Essendon were given further credence on talkback Radio SEN when Matthew Lloyd, Essendon's 2009 captain, suggested that Hird's comments were a change of heart. In the past, Hird had maintained that he had no interest in coaching at all and several days after the rumors began, Hird reaffirmed on Fox Sports that he would not be seeking the coaching position next year.

It seemed that no matter who had taken over from Kevin Sheedy would have suffered from fragmentation and lack of support in the club but despite the intense media frenzy, Matthew Knights was adamant that he would coach Essendon in 2011. This was not to be.

Sources: Essendon Media statement; Channel Nine:SEN sports radio; Channel Seven

Article last changed on Monday, September 06, 2010 - 6:16 AM EDT

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