Football Federation Australia CEO James Johnson has expressed his regret over the sudden departure of Rob Sherman as Australia's technical director, saying that the Welshman left the post "too early."
Formerly a technical director with Wales and New Zealand, Sherman tendered his resignation to the FFA in March after less than one year in the role.
"Rob Sherman and I, we had a very good relationship," Johnson told ESPN in an exclusive interview.
"I was very sad and reluctant that he left the organisation. I think he left too early, and he knows I think that. I only had good words to say about Rob."
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After initially refraining from publicly commenting on his departure, Sherman broke his silence last Tuesday on LinkedIn, slamming what he believed to be a siloed, bureaucratic and needlessly political approach to the game from the FFA while outlining his own reform agenda for Australia in a post-coronavirus world.
Sherman claims that every change that he advocated for during his time at the FFA failed because "the people who actually have years of football experience working in the industry aren't listened to."
The former technical director's laundry list of reform includes the abolishment of state federations, aligning the entirety of the Australian football calendar to Asia by shifting the A-League season to winter, the introduction of a conference-structured national second division by 2022, the reform of youth player contracts and a greater focus on club and coaching development.
"The football direction should be left to those employed for their expertise," Sherman wrote.
"The administrators should focus on establishing long term planning, excellent administrative process, resourcing, securing and managing finance. Instead we have a culture that focuses on appeasing boards and convincing the stakeholders and media of what a good job they are doing in an effort to hold onto position and power.
"Much of the turbulence in Australian football is self-inflicted and the game operates at a level way under its potential."
In a subsequent interview with SBS, however, Sherman did back FFA CEO Johnson, calling him "a guy in there with a football background who really understands the game," but expressed a fear that he would be hamstrung in efforts to reform the game.
"I think some of [Sherman's] comments make a lot of sense," Johnson told ESPN Australia when asked about the empowerment of technical experts.
"I would go broader than just talking about technical expertise because that sounds to me like we're looking at a footballing ecosystem in a narrow sense. Albeit a very important sense, because we're talking about coach education and that's a crucial part of the game's development.
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"But I think what we need to talk about in terms of our football administration is we need football acumen. We need football acumen and that requires people that understand the value that coaches bring to the table, and they bring incredible value to the table, but we also need people that understand how competition structures can not only develop people but can grow commercially what we've seen in Europe. I think that's important.
"We need people that understand the value of a transfer system, both the sporting side and the economical side, I think we need people that can look at a football nation and understand the economics of the market.
"I think we need people who understand the balance and connection between the professional game, the semi-professional and the amateur game. I think Rob makes a good point about technical people, but I think what we're really looking for is people that have footballing acumen. Football executives that understand both the technical side and the business side of the sport.
"To me, this is what we need."