Wollongong United coach John Fleming has walked out on the club, admonishing president Peter Vrtkovski after the pair had a dressing room row on Saturday.
Fleming was incensed when Vrtkovski entered the sheds to allegedly criticise United players, who had only moments earlier salvaged a last-gasp 2-2 draw with battling South Coast United at Macedonia Park.
Fleming, the first to desert an Illawarra Premier League coaching post this season, told the Mercury his patience had worn thin after a string of similar incidents with Vrtkovski.
‘‘It’s not the first time it’s happened and I just turned around and said I don’t want to be in a club with this type of environment,’’ he said.
‘‘I just walked out.
‘‘It’s pathetic - it’s that simple. I’m not even in the dressing room yet. I haven’t even walked across the pitch and he’s shouting at the players.’’
Vrtkovski said there ‘‘was no commotion in the change room at all’’ and suggested some players had tired of Fleming’s training patterns and
‘‘I think a lot of the players have lost a bit of respect for the coach,’’ he said.
‘‘At the end of the day John said he couldn’t get the best out of the players [as he left].’’
While Fleming and Vrtkovski appeared at loggerheads over the manner of the coach’s resignation, they were at pains to stress there would be no hard feelings between them.
Fleming said he held no grudges towards Vrtkovski, who he labelled a ‘‘good administrator’’, while Vrtkovski thanked Fleming for his contribution to the club.
‘‘I’ve got no bad words to say about John Fleming,’’ Vrtkovski said. ‘‘John’s been at the club for 2 years and we’ve had good success.
‘‘We finished fifth two years ago and last year fourth. This year we’re still in the mix.’’
United remain in sixth spot, one point outside the finals positions.
Fleming said the club was in a position to build on the achievements under his tenure.
‘‘We’ve worked hard to steady the club,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s the first time we’ve been able to retain players and there’s stability.’’
The ex-Port Kembla mentor said he would likely take up a new coaching challenge, if and when a suitable vacancy became available.
Vrtkovski said a new coach would be installed at United before next weekend’s fixture with Wollongong Olympic.
‘‘We’re going to bring some new fresh ideas to the club in terms of a coach who is a bit younger and has a more modern style of play,’’ he said.
On the pitch, the red-hot Save Treneski helped start Fleming’s day on a bright note, putting United a goal up in the first half.
But strikes from Dinko Terzic and Michael De Gori had South Coast on track for their first win since round one, before Greg Valic’s stoppage time own goal ensured they shared the spoils.