The Bombers’ pursuit of Clarkson under newly-installed president David Barham has been no secret, with club powerbrokers meeting with Clarkson’s manager James Henderson earlier this week.
However, all this has happened while Essendon still employs Rutten, who has a year to run on his current deal.
Rutten himself called the speculation surrounding his position “not ideal” earlier in the week, but has put on a brave face and committed to coaching the team in its final match of the season on Saturday night against Richmond.
The man who is at the centre of the tug of war between North Melbourne and Essendon, Clarkson, called the entire situation “embarrassing” to be a part of.
“It’s quite embarrassing, to be fair, to be the central figure in all this,” he told 10 News reporters.
“I’ve got enormous respect for the three guys involved in their clubs, (GWS Giants coach) Spike (Mark) McVeigh, Truck Rutten and (Kangaroos interim coach) Patch (Leigh) Adams, they’re all terrific football people and they’re trying to do the right things by their clubs.
“In particular with the situation around Truck (Rutten), he’s still got a year of his contract to run and it’s quite embarrassing being the centre of attention in a situation that is just so difficult for both him and his club.
“I’d prefer to be able to get off the back page, and I know full well that this circus will all end once I can make a decision one way or another. So the sooner I can do that, the better.”
Rutten has a number of close friends within the coaching fraternity, one of whom is former Adelaide teammate Simon Goodwin, Melbourne’s senior coach.
Speaking on Thursday, the reigning premiership-winning coach criticised Essendon for its treatment of Rutten.
“I am a mate of Ben, I have reached out to Ben, it’s a really tough situation,” Goodwin told reporters.
“To be honest, I think we all sit here as coaches and we look at our situation and the one thing you want in our industry is respect.
“And I don’t think Ben has been afforded that. I think it has been pretty poor how he has been treated.
“Hopefully he comes out the other side but he has showed enormous dignity in the way he has gone about his business.
“He has given four years of incredible service to that footy club and our industry.
“He is a great person, a great coach. And I just hope he comes out the other side and make sure that he is treated the right way.”
Rutten arrived at Essendon after a stint under Damien Hardwick at Richmond, and Hardwick also went into bat for the embattled coach.
“Ben Rutten’s a terrific coach, we’ve had him in these four walls, we know what he’s capable of and how well he can do the job,” Hardwick said on Thursday.
“What I do empathise with is the human element, it’s a tough situation but that’s the caper we’re in.
“It’s unfortunate in nature, but what we care about is the person and we hope Ben himself is doing OK.”
While Rutten is widely expected to be out of the main seat at Essendon ahead of next season, there is no indication when the club will make its move.
The Age’s Caroline Wilson was also highly critical of Essendon’s treatment of Rutten, calling the saga “one of football’s more shameful stories”.
“I wonder why we have a coaches association. I wonder why we talk about human resources of football clubs when you look at the way Ben Rutten has been treated – whether or not he had the confidence of the players,” she told Nine’s Footy Classified on Wednesday night.
Clarkson unfazed by Dons’ instability
“He was visited today at his Mount Macedon property by David Barham, the new president of the Essendon Football Club. He wasn’t sacked, but there was a full and frank conversation in which David Barham made it clear that Essendon are looking at Alastair Clarkson. And beyond that, they can’t really say exactly what will happen.
“I think Ben Rutten has shown extraordinary grace and strength under huge pressure this week – and it is just weird to think that you would hang a bloke out to dry like that.
“I know he’s going to get a pay out, he’s not the only one under pressure, and this story is not all about Ben Rutten. It’s also about the CEO Xavier Campbell and the head of footy, Josh Mahoney.”
Alastair Clarkson is expected to announce his decision between Essendon and North Melbourne by the end of this week.
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