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Friday, 29 August 2014

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Grubby, amateurish and pathetic: Ex-Whitehaven coach blasts 'you're sacked' phone call

Don Gailer was visiting Disneyland when sacked by promoted Whitehaven.

Don Gailer photo
Don Gailer

The Haven coach was on a family break in Paris when he took a call from chairman Ralph Calvin who told the Aussie he was relieved of his duties and a contract offer for next season was withdrawn.

“I was told it was urgent and he had to deliver the bad news on the phone because they had to immediately advertise for a coach,” said Gailer.

“It was grubby, amateurish and really pathetic but not an unexpected delivery of something that had probably been brewing for a while.”

It is believed the Haven board decided to act swiftly after being alarmed by the number of players privately approaching directors while in the capital for last weekend’s clash with London Skolars and the Challenge Cup final at Wembley, to say they would not re-sign for next term if Gailer was in charge.

But the coach said it had been part of his role at the Recre this year to tackle the club’s player-power culture.

“I was given two jobs when I got here,” he added. “One was to get promotion, the No 1 goal. They also asked me to change the culture as players had let down coaches over the last dozen or so years and it continued to be a problem.

“You can’t change the culture and discipline without ruffling a few feathers. You have to be hard-nosed and face some heavy challenges, and I thought I could help the club out there.

“I took a hard stand on some players and certainly some attitudes and discipline when required. When you get a kickback from that, you want the people who gave you the directive to back you up.

“Quite a few times during the year I felt let down and expressed that to certain board members but continued to do the job they gave me.”

The club’s reserve-grade was dropped this term, to instead plough resources in to winning promotion, and Gailer feels his calls for a second-team re-launch at the Recre did him no favours with the boardroom, either.

“At the start of the year I probably upset a couple of board members by constantly saying it was a strategic error not to have a second-team,” he continued.

“It’s something no-one had to face before and I had to face it every week when I named a team and had to leave out up to 12 players.

“When you look at young guys who work really hard and week after week are not in the 17, ultimately that has to have an effect on their mental approach to the game and harmony in the squad. I pushed the point that we needed a second-team to bring the young talent through. If everyone wants a locally-based Cumbrian side you need to develop players.

“I was tracking a lot of amateurs. I could name 20 young guys with talent who might ultimately reach the grade, but they need an apprenticeship to come through.”

With promotion in the bag, Gailer, who labelled chief executive Barry Richardson a tower of strength this year, regards the season as a success.

Though he does not believe Haven would have moved up to the Championship with the squad he was given at the start of the season, but that players he brought in, Jessie Joe Parker and Jamie Rooney, made the difference.

Gailer said the plan for next season was for players based outside the county to train only once a week in Whitehaven with the locally-based players, which he reckons is doomed to fail.

“I know for an absolute fact that if they train once a week as a team they will get slaughtered and be back down in this league quicker than they know,” said Gailer, who has been heartened this week by messages of support from fans.

“If there’s a silver lining it’s the supporters. The amount of texts and messages, and people coming up to me and being supportive, has been fantastic. To get their tick of approval, I know it’s a job well done.”

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