By David Martin
LONDON, Oct 15 PA - Former British Athletics coaching supremo Frank Dick believes Keith Connor is still the best man to be appointed UK Athletics performance director.
Connor, a former British international triple jumper and currently Australia’s head athletics coach, had an interview to be successor to present incumbent Max Jones earlier this week.
Rival Charles van Commenee withdrew from the contest last week after his appointment as number one coach to the Netherlands’ Olympic Committee - and it seemed Connor would be earmarked for the job.
But now it seems the 47-year-old former British international triple jumper is being considered for promotion by Athletics Australia - where he has lived for 14 years.
Connor, winner of the 1982 European triple jump title and an Olympic bronze medallist two years later, could become Australia’s first-ever performance director.
Dick, Britain’s most successful British coaching director during the heydays of the 1980s, said: ``It might be he has been tabled a better offer both job-wise and financially by them.’’
Dick was reacting to a UKA statement which confirmed no appointment has been made for the position of performance director - although it is known Connor attended his interview and is still in the country.
The release read: ``We are seeking the best talent available and the search is ongoing.’’
And Dick continued:
It will be a pity if UK Athletics do lose him. In my book he has always been and still remains the best candidate to take over the appointment.
``He has big values and vision and really I cannot believe he flew all the way from Sydney if he didn’t want the job.’’
Dick admits Connor’s forthright attitude has made him an unpopular figure in Australia - where many criticise the way he operates.
But Dick continued: ``That in a way is no bad thing and many people I have spoken to admire him for his stance.
``Keith has shown he can be ruthless in demanding high qualities and no-one can dispute he can deliver in terms of leadership and the team.
He does understand the needs of athletes and he has been an inspiration to many of the people I know down there. He will make the winning decisions for British athletics.’’
Dick believes Connor - who UKA have not officially ruled out as a candidate - initially faces an uphill task, and so would whoever else is given Jones’ role.
The job is still likened to a poisoned chalice despite the three gold and one bronze medal won in this year’s Olympic Games.
…AND THEN . . . THERE’S THIS VERSION OF THE FACTS …
Coach Connor misses the bus
Saturday October 16, 2004
British athletics is to continue its worldwide search for a new performance director after deciding not to give the job to Keith Connor.
The former British record holder for the triple jump had been the clear favourite for the post after Charles van Commenee, the man seen as his only rival, withdrew from the selection process to take up a job in the Netherlands.
But Connor has resumed his position as Australia’s head coach and will not be returning to replace Max Jones, who is due to step down as Britain’s performance director in March.
Officials who interviewed Connor and Van Commenee were impressed with the coaching skills of both candidates but are understood to have had serious doubts about the abilities of either to direct a successful future for the sport in Britain.
That feeling was probably communicated to Van Commenee, which is why earlier this week he decided to return home and accept a senior job with the Dutch Olympic Committee. Connor, 47, will hope to be re-employed by Athletics Australia when his contract expires on December 31.
UK Athletics has, meanwhile, asked the firm of headhunters it has employed to continue its global hunt for a suitable candidate. “The search is ongoing and it will continue until we have found the best person available,” said a spokeswoman.
Frank Dick, Britain’s former head coach, is among those who had backed Connor’s candidature. “In my book he has always been and still remains the best candidate to take over the appointment,” he said.
“He has big values and vision, has shown he can be ruthless in demanding high qualities and no one can dispute he can deliver in terms of leadership and the team.”
Whoever replaces Jones will discover a sport that finished third in the medals table at the Olympics in Athens but is facing an uncertain future.
“Despite these successes I am concerned that for the first time ever we failed to win a medal at the world junior championships,” said Dick.
"I am also frightened by the fact that the British women were relegated from the top flight of the European Cup, also for the first time.
The 2006 World Cup will be switched from the United States after a breakdown in negotiations between the organising company and the world governing body over the payment of US taxes on prize money.