Under the mentorship of Arthur Diles, the Western Sydney Wanderers academy sides continue to thrive as a conveyor belt producing future A-League stars.
The former Sydney Olympic, Sydney United, Parramatta Power, Crawley Town and KV Mechelen player has continued to fine-tune his craft as a coach, in order to provide the best possible education for an exciting crop of youngsters at the Western Sydney club.
Diles, who joined the Wanderers academy in 2015, believes his experience overseas and discussion with the club’s first team coaches has been key.
“Just like playing, coaching is something that you always need developing,” he said.
“After doing my coaching education here in Australia I have gone overseas regularly to Europe and visited different clubs and academies to learn and observe how they do things.
“I always ask: is it different to what we do over here? How can I implement some things here to keep improving my players?”
“I have also been fortunate enough to have some good coaches above me at the Wanderers.
“When I first started, Tony Popovic was great as a mentor.
“In the last 18 months, Josep (Gombau) and Markus (Babbel) have all helped out as well.
“It has been something I have invested a lot of time and money into educating myself to be better.”
Diles’ Wanderers side, of which under Football NSW guidelines the vast majority of its first grade outfit must be under the age of 20, currently sit 4th place of the National Premier League Men’s 2 Competition.
But as is uncharacteristic of most football clubs, for the head coach results are of secondary importance.
“For us, the NPL has been a massive in how it has been able to give young players senior footballing experience,” Diles said.
“Over the years we have probably been the youngest team out of the A-League clubs fielding sides in the NPL division, but we’ve been able to produce more players from NPL 2 to our first team than any other club.
“I think the additional money, resources and coaching means there is a significant difference between the A-League academies and NPL clubs when it comes to developing footballers.
Diles is now familiar with the unique prospect of preparing his youthful outfit to secure results against well-drilled, physical first grade sides while maintaining an emphasis on individual development.
“The challenge is how do you get talented young players to compete week in week out against seasoned, experienced men,” he revealed.
“We put a lot of emphasis into using Monday to Friday as a development opportunities for our players.
“Come the weekend, we want to see the rewards from that and want to see these kids compete and ultimately get rewarded with good performances and good results.
“I think that’s currently working for us.
“Obviously the good gauge is that when you are up against men, you really get to see where our boys are physically.“That is normally the final step. Sometimes we are technically and tactically better than our opponents, but not always physically and mentally.
“In that regard, the NPL is a great springboard for these players to develop mentally and physically, and we are very grateful for it.”
The Wanderers have no shortage of examples of youngsters who have progressed through the academy set-up to secure game time in the Hyundai A-League first team.
“There have been many,” Diles explained.
“Just in the last two or three years we have had the likes of Keanu Baccus, Abraham Majok, Kostandinos Grozos, Tass Mourdoukoutas, Tate Russel, Matieu Cordier, Nick Suman, young Fabian Monge and there’s a couple more to follow shortly.
“It’s been massive for us in the last two years, the amount of players that have gone through to the first team through the youth team and the NPL space.
“I think we are ahead of all the other clubs in terms of doing that.
“That’s a credit to our club and all involved for working hard to develop players, and not just worry about performance and more individual development with the goal of creating professional footballers with our first team.”
Western Sydney Wanderers currently sit on top of the National Premier Leagues Men’s 2 Club Championship, a position that as things stand would secure them passage to the top tier of the competition.
However, Diles and the Wanderers are not fixated by the prospect of promotion.
“To be honest it hasn’t really been spoken about at our club,” he revealed.
“In years gone by it hasn’t been something that we have actively looked to achieve.
“If that can one day happen, great, but it is not something we train for every day.
“Our sole focus is developing our players to become professionals and that is the most important thing.
“You can see in the last few years the rewards of that have really paid off and that, for the club, is worth more than anything else.”
“For us, if we can be playing finals football come the end of the year that would be a great achievement, because we haven’t done that in the last few years.
“But that would be a little team goal that would reward these players for their hard work.
“Come the end of the season the most important objective for us is that we have more players closer to the first team.”
Diles’ outfit are next in action when they make the short away trip to face second placed Hills United FC at Lily Holmes Stadium on Saturday night.
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)