Gra­ham Arnold: Soc­cer coach.

Gra­ham Arnold, 54, soc­cer coach Syd­ney FC

The Saturday Paper - - Contents | The Week - Jack Kerr

Last year is his­tory. I don’t think about it any­more. The play­ers don’t think about it any­more. It’s about what’s in front of us. The real tro­phy has gone back to the FFA al­ready; we’ve got the replica. We want to get the real tro­phy back. It was ob­vi­ously a fan­tas­tic sea­son [Syd­ney FC lost just one game on their way to win­ning both the cham­pi­onship and the Pre­miers Plate], but it’s also one that we’ve al­ready re­moved from our minds.

It’s all about im­prove­ment. It’s all about be­ing greater this sea­son than we were last sea­son. I truly be­lieve that ev­ery in­di­vid­ual has more in them. I re­peat­edly said dur­ing last sea­son that we were prob­a­bly 70 per cent of where I be­lieved we could be, and I know the play­ers will have the hunger and drive. And we’ve re­cruited very well, so the squad is greater qual­ity than it was last sea­son.

I see my­self as a teacher and an ed­u­ca­tor of the game. I al­ways judge my per­for­mance on my play­ers and if when they walk out of this place they’ve im­proved as a player and as a per­son. I know these play­ers have got a lot of im­prove­ment left in them, and I plan to make sure I ex­tract ev­ery bit of that out of them.

With the right at­ti­tude, there’s only one way I see it go­ing. Last year, we brought in a lot of new play­ers. This year, we’ve re­tained most of them. So the co-or­di­na­tion of our play­ing style within the group is al­ready there. There’ll be a few ad­just­ments, but tac­ti­cally they are al­ready set. And phys­i­cally, they’ll be even greater this year than last year.

Lead­er­ship is the key. Hav­ing great se­nior play­ers with you who want to win. Ev­ery time we go on the train­ing pitch, we pre­pare to win. On the week­end, we go out to win, and we ex­pect to win ev­ery game we play. I’ve got a group of peo­ple here who be­lieve in each other and trust each other and be­lieve in our pro­cesses and that they rep­re­sent a fan­tas­tic club. We go out there with the in­ten­tion to win ev­ery game, and we will con­tinue to do that.

I be­lieve that this year our at­tack­ing play will be greater than what it was last year. Our de­fen­sive side of things is great, and we’ve got to con­tinue that. But we can get bet­ter with pos­ses­sion, and we’ve re­cruited more qual­ity in the front half of the field, play­ers with the X fac­tor that can cre­ate chances out of noth­ing and score goals. So there­fore I think you’ll see a very ex­cit­ing Syd­ney FC.

Our new Pol­ish player, Adrian Mierze­jew­ski, he’s top shelf. He’s played 41 times for Poland. Tech­ni­cally, he’s up in the top one or two in the A-League. He’s a fan­tas­tic player. In the pre-sea­son, the Syd­ney FC fans have been on the edge of their seat ev­ery time he touches the ball. I be­lieve he will be the shin­ing light of the A-League this sea­son. If you’ve got a front line of goalscor­ers like Ninković, Bobô, Brosque, Car­ney, Matty Simon and Adrian, you’ve got a very scary front line.

We’ve got some good young kids com­ing through. Char­lie Lokolin­goy – I just call him Big Charles – he’s got pace, he’s a big, strong boy, and he scores goals eas­ily. He’s come through our youth team. He’s the lead­ing goalscorer in the NPL 2. He’s an ex­cit­ing prospect. Chris Zu­vela is an­other one. I ex­pect im­prove­ment of Bran­don O’Neill. Josh Bril­lante even more. Paulo Re­tre has set­tled in per­fectly, and is do­ing fan­tas­tic. So I ex­pect our young boys to be very good.

Last sea­son is some­thing I’ll re­flect on when I sit back in maybe 10 years’ time – not now. Two days af­ter the grand fi­nal last sea­son, I was al­ready re­leas­ing play­ers and re­cruit­ing for this sea­son. That’s what you have to do as a coach. Ob­vi­ously I was very proud of the achieve­ments of last sea­son, but I also say that win­ning the cham­pi­onship at the Mariners [in 2013] with no money and a bunch of kids was just as sat­is­fy­ing.

We’re as­pir­ing to be one of the best in Asia – not just in Aus­tralia. The club is in a fan­tas­tic po­si­tion.

It’s a re­ally good fam­ily club. It’s a strongly backed club, with a gen­er­ous owner and a great chair­man. I made a state­ment when I came here that I wanted Syd­ney FC to be like the Manch­ester United of Aus­tralia, and I truly • be­lieve that we are very close to that.

JACK KERR is a jour­nal­ist and doc­u­men­tary maker.

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