THUNDER IN TURMOIL The rotating door in the Hamilton Thunder office indicates something is amiss with the Canadian Professional Soccer League franchise.
Latest to leave the fold were head coach Duncan Wilde and assistants Billy Steele and Ammar Awad. They resigned over an apparent debate about bringing in import players.
Wilde replaced German native Marko Maschke, who was brought to Hamilton from his home country to coach. Maschke resigned before the season ended last year.
Wilde said he was disappointed to leave the team. "Our views are in no way compatible," he said.
Just a couple of days after their resignations, the Thunder issued a news release saying a new coach had been hired, Ivan Markovic, and four players acquired from Croatia.
The club hopes Mario Zupetic, Petar Dajak, Vedran Bacek and Zeljiko Dukic will get the international clearance in time to play tonight against London City.
A new chairperson and CEO is also in place in Hamilton. Rocco Lofranco, former commissioner with the National Soccer League, a forerunner of the CPSL, came on board a couple of weeks ago. It apparently was Lofranco who wanted to bring in the import players.
Interestingly, Lofranco, who has taken control quickly, is not recognized by the league.
CPSL administrator Stan Adamson said his appointment has to be approved by the board.
The Western Conference-leading Thunder are plowing along as if it's a done deal.
Adamson said the league is "quite disappointed" that Wilde resigned.
Adamson said he brought great credentials to the position.
"He was with Manchester United for a brief period (as a player). He was bringing over from time to time Manchester United players. He still has a strong connection to the club," he said.
Markovic also has connections in the soccer world and has proven to be a success as coach. He has coached with the former Yugoslavia's national team and First Division French club Marseilles.
Markovic led the Metros Croatia team of Toronto to the North American club championship in 1976. It's the last time a Canadian soccer team won a North American championship title.
The Thunder have high aspirations and hope Markovic can take them where they want to go.
In the news release, Lofranco said the Thunder want to make "Hamilton a powerhouse in soccer in Canada."
The team had a goal of breaking into the North American A-League by 2005 but Adamson said team officials have stepped that up to 2004.
Whether the loss of Wilde, who the players respected and liked, will have a negative impact remains to be seen.
Markovic will be calling the shots tonight at Cove Road field.
London almost beat Hamilton in their last meeting.
City was up 3-0 before Thunder players came roaring back in the 69th minute to score their first goal. Hamilton went on to win 4-3 with a goal in injury time.
City coach Harry Gauss said his players are prepared to get the revenge they feel they deserve tonight.
City is fifth in the Western Conference at 2-4-2.