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Jan 3, 2007

Sydney FC's Crook heading to Japan

Sydney FC has released assistant coach Ian Crook, bringing an end to months of uncertainty over his future at the club amid rumours of a rift with coach Terry Butcher.

Crook has been granted a release to re-unite with former Sydney FC coach Pierre Littbarski as assistant at Japan's second-division J-League outfit Avispa Fukuoka.

Former Norwich star Crook had been ousted from Sydney's training sessions and switched to a new youth development role by the club after ongoing reports he and Butcher did not see eye-to-eye.

Sydney chief executive George Perry, having consistently denied any bad-blood between the two, said the club simply didn't want to stand in the way of the Crook's lucrative move to Japan.

"He leaves Sydney FC with the gratitude and best wishes from the board and the coaching and administrative staff," Perry said in a statement released by the club.

"Ian Crook was part of the original team at Sydney FC and has been a great contributor to the club generally."

Crook wouldn't comment in detail on his relationship with Butcher but said he didn't want to leave the club on bad terms.

"At the end of the day, I don't want to leave here with people sort of going around and saying that sort of stuff (about a rift)," he said.

"We're both sort of pretty passionate towards things and this is an opportunity for me that I didn't feel I could turn down.

"We had a working relationship and we were both trying to do the best for Sydney FC."

Crook said he was excited at the prospect of linking up with Littbarski, with whom he led Sydney to the inaugural A-League title.

"Obviously I learned a lot from him last year and hopefully I can learn some more," he said.

"It's a another opportunity for me to improve my coaching skills overseas."

The club said acting assistant Anthony Crea would continue in the role for the time being.

Sydney FC shareholder and actor Anthony LaPaglia is reportedly a supporter of Crook and called for Butcher to be sacked earlier this season to make way for the assistant.

LaPaglia has also openly criticised Butcher's tactics and blamed plummeting attendances on the Englishman's brand of football.

But the side's on-field performance seems unaffected by the ongoing drama, now unbeaten in their previous night games.

Meanwhile, the club has still not decided whether it will appeal the loss of three points and a $129,000 fine for salary cap breaches.

The club has until Friday to respond.