The A-League's most successful coach broke his silence on the drama at the club this campaign, and believes the problems start from the top
Former Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick has taken aim at the club's directors, laying the blame for the two-time A-League champions' failure to make the finals this campaign squarely at their feet.
Still the most successful A-League coach of all time, Merrick, 59, has kept a dignified silence since his sacking from the role in March 2011.
Victory's inaugural coach, he had guided the club to the 2006-07 and 2008-09 league titles. He was appointed Hong Kong manager in December, but felt compelled to break his silence on Victory due to his "concern for the players".
"[The club's hierarchy] leak their negative views on players and technical staff to favoured media figures. From the CEO down, they have set a terrible example to every other section of the organisation and that has to affect morale everywhere else,'' Merrick told The Age on Monday.
''And it is not just the players and coaches they have let down; but the supporters and members too. They are the soul of the club and deserve so much more.
''The board is condescending and fails to treat them with respect. Instead, it insults their intelligence with inadequate information planted into the media or by adopting diversion tactics."
After what was described by the club as a "worldwide search" to find Merrick's replacement, caretaker and former National Youth League coach Mehmet Durakovic was handed the role.
Durakovic lasted just seven months before he was sacked, with Northern Irishman Jim Magilton hired in a caretaker capacity to guide Victory until the end of the 2011-12 season.
Magilton is favourite to win the race for the full-time job, despite failing to guide the club into the finals this season.
Merrick described the selection process to select replacement Mehmet Durakovic as "flawed", and said Victory - with the quality within their squad - should have made the finals this campaign.
''… I found it remarkable to recently read in newspapers the Victory squad is comprised largely of 'old and slow' players," he said. "Rubbish!''
Merrick emphasised he was "not a vindictive man", but could not simply watch on as the club's post-mortem on the 2011-12 season began.
''It hurts to see Victory where they are now, on and off the field. I had six fantastic years there and will always be a fan. During that period, the club established a fantastic supporter base, became the acknowledged benchmark for management structures and our finances were well run - we had a AU$2 million surplus on transfers. Those same players now being criticised won five trophies. It surely can be understood why I am so dismayed to see what has been happening and the club floundering," he said.
''Concern for the players has made me make my feelings known. The greatest disappointment of my Victory career was the haste of the exit, making it impossible to farewell the players and supporters in an appropriate manner.''
Merrick said he was "looking forward to the next couple of years in Hong Kong", but ultimately wanted to return to Australia and the A-League one day.