How have preparations gone for season 2008 with Manly United
PM: It?s been a relatively smooth preparation punctuated by the rain and me having to go to Canberra for two weeks to complete my AFC A-Licence. I?m fortunate to have two great assistants in Les Macedo and Steve Berry and a fantastic backroom staff so everything ran like clockwork while I was away and I think the first round performance against Bankstown showed that. We have some injuries and carry-over suspensions like most other clubs ? we had six players sitting in the grandstand at Jensen Park. ? so our depth was tested and came through with flying colours.
You started on the right foot for season 2008 with a 3-0 victory over Bankstown City at Jensen Park in Round 1 which was by no means an easy feat?
PM: It was a classy performance to start the season ? we have always been a hard-working side but I thought we should some real class in patches and that is something we have worked on over the off-season. I believe there is still a lot of improvement to come and we need to be consistent.
What can we expect from Manly United this season?
PM: We have set our sights on improving on last season. We shocked a few people by sneaking into the Top Four on the last day of the season but it wasn?t a shock to us. We were in fact disappointed that we left it so late to qualify and I think our performances in the finals series against Marconi and Blacktown proved we were good enough to be there. So we are aiming to raise the bar again this year and we have a group of players who are eager to improve each week and work together to achieve a common goal. This is the fifth year of a five-year plan which was built around promotion, survival, consolidation, finals and silverware. So far we have achieved everything we set out to achieve and we are very motivated to put something in the cabinet this year.
Which player should we look out for from your respective squad?
PM: I?m excited about the prospects of several players this year. Youngsters like Roberto Hamad, Ashley Ryan and Michael Lloyd-Green announced themselves as genuine first graders last season and I think they will really kick on this year. But for sheer class you can?t go past Robbie Cattanach. He won the Gold Medal last year for the second time in three years and started this season with a hat-trick against one of the best defences in the league (Bankstown). He is one of the best finishers I have seen in the state league for many a year and he has worked hard on a few areas I believe were holding him back from taking that next step to the A-League. I would be surprised if he was in the TeleChoice Premier League beyond this season ? he is destined for bigger and better things.
You recently completed your A-Licence coaching in Canberra how did that all go for you?
PM: As a young coach I?m always looking for ways to improve and challenge myself for the benefit of my players. The AFC A-Licence certainly took us out of our comfort zone and challenged us. It was an excellent course, well run by Kelly Cross and his staff, and I?d recommend it to any coach serious about working at the semi-professional and professional levels. I?ve been lucky enough to have been involved with Graham Arnold and the Olyroos during their qualification for Beijing and the A-Licence covers real issues and aspects of coaching you are faced with at that level and also at the NSWPL and A-League level. It is a big step up from the Senior and State Licences but so it should be. Hopefully the increased knowledge you acquire will make you a better coach.
Finally, is coaching in the A-League one of your future ambitions as a coach?
PM: Like any coach at this level, I?m ambitious so the A-League is certainly in my sights when the time is right. But I wouldn?t limit it to Australia. Now that we are in Asia there is a lot to tap into and you have to have an open mind in coaching. The Olyroos experience has been a massive opportunity for me and I have learnt a great deal from ?Arnie? and other coaches who have worked in camps like Aurelio Vidmar, Ron Smith and Steve O?Connor. Arnie is a very open coach prepared to share his experiences and things he picked up from Guus Hiddink. I love working with professionally-minded players and Manly has provided me with an environment that is second to none at state league level when it comes to developing as a coach and learning the trade. I owe them a lot for their support, encouragement and stability. Luckily coaching is the sort of profession that constantly challenges you so you can?t afford to sit in a comfort zone. There were times as a player I probably didn?t take opportunities when they presented themselves and I?m determined not to make the same mistake as a coach.
– By Mark Stavroulakis