Dennis Viollet, under pressure from club management, resigned as coach of the Washington Diplomats soccer team yesterday. He will be replaced for the remainder of the season by assistant coach Alan Spavin.
Viollet, 43, the only head coach in the Dips' four-year history, announced his resignation at a team meeting attended by team president Steve Danzansky and general manager John Carbray.
Although the club said Viollet resigned, it was obvious he was told to do so. If he had not made a move, the Dips would have.
Spavin, 35, will make his coaching debut-tonight in Toronto. he became a Diplomat in 1974 and has been a player-assistant coach since 1975. He said he would remain on the active roster, but he did not intend to continue playing "at least initially."
Reports of Viollet's departure were first reported in The Washington Post Wednesday, following the Dips' 2-0 loss to Las Vegas Monday night. The defeat, the team's fourth in a row and sixth in seven games, left the Dips burled in last place in the North American Soccer League's Eastern Division with a 6-9 record and 51 points - 32 points behind Tampa Bay and Fort Lauderdale. It also marked the eight time this season Washington has been shut out.
"I think this move is for the good of the team and myselfl." Viollet said in his office immediately after the meeting, "All this had started to affect my health. I didn't want anything to happen to the franchise. We started to draw fans, but you need a winning. I'm glad to hahve some of the pressure oof. I'm goint to go home, relax, have a beer and listen to the game from Toronto."
Viollet will remain with the club in an as-yet-unspecified front-office position. He said he expected to be involved in player development and scouting.
"This is a difficult thing for all of us," Spavin said after putting the team through its first practice under a new coach. "Dennis is a good friend of mine. But you can see the relief in his face. The change in him is obvious. This will be good for him."
Spavin said he hadn't even thought about a lineup for the Toronto game but said changes will be made in the way the team is run, if not in the personnel.
"I feel as if I have a lot to do and very little time in which to do it," he said. "We're going to be more organized here and discipline's going to be tighter for everyone."
Most of the players refused comment on the coaching change but Gary Darrel, captain of the Dips, indicated that a problem with discipline and organization might have helped lead to Viollet's departure.
"I think a move was necessary," he said. "Dennis has been different this year. He wasn't as organized as he's been in the past and he hasn't been as enthused. I think the players were probably affected by that.
"With an older team like we've had in the past, it probably wouldn't have mattered so mcuh because they would'v just gone out and given 100 per cent no matter what. But with a young team like we have, you need to be tough. You've got to have discipline."
Spavin held a brief team meeting after the team returned from a one-hour workout at Ft. McNair. "I asked the lads to try and put what happened this morning behind them," he said. "We're all professionals and we have to go to Toronto and start a couple of games, all the problems of this week will be forgotten quickly."
Viollet recrutied most of the Dips to this country and his departure appeared to upset most of the players. "We all wanted to come over here and play for Dennis," defender Ken Hill said: "It's disappointing, but it's part of soccer. You're always surprised when something like this happens but you also come to expect things to happen when a team isn't playing well."
Forward Alan Green, who joined the team in May, said simply, "I feel sick right now." Goaltender Eric Martin added, "I guess somebody's got to take the blame. It's not for us to decide who takes it, though."
Viollelt, who was overcome by emotion and had to leave the room briefly after he begam to tell the players of his resignation, was runner-up in coach-of-the-year voting last season after leading Washington into the play-offs with a 14-10 record.
He becomes the fifth NASL, coach replaced this season. One of the others was 1976 coach-of-the-year, Eddie Firmani, with resigned from the Tampa Bay Rowdies.