Adam Lucius talks exclusively to the head coach of the Sky Blues, who has endured a roller-coaster start to the 2013-14 A-League season in the Harbour CityFrank Farina has managed to achieve what many past Sydney FC coaches have not – last 12 months in the role. On the anniversary of his appointment, Farina sat down with Adam Lucius to go over a year of highs and lows at the Sky Blues.
One year on
Twelve months at Sydney FC is like five anywhere else, so regularly do the Sky Blues change coaches.
"I keep getting reminded of the stats of how long coaches last here but I try to ignore them," Farina laughed. "Twelve months has gone pretty quickly. It's had its ups and downs but change doesn't happen overnight. It's a gradual process and I think we've steadily improved along the way."
Just a month ago, the drums were beating that Farina would become the latest Sydney coach to have his head lopped off. Instead of hiding in a corner, the former Socceroo went on the front foot and confronted his critics in an online column.
"That was directed at a few individuals who were getting quite personal about staff and players and myself so why not return fire?" Farina said.
"There's a big spotlight on football, particularly in Sydney, with intense scrutiny and pressure. That comes from being one of the biggest clubs in the league. Having won the competition twice there are expectations and demands. You expect to be under scrutiny when you lose three in a row and that scrutiny was certainly there. As long as you understand that – and I do – you learn how to accept it and handle it. But not when things get so personal."
Support of the board
Usually when you hear a coach has the backing of the board, you can start ordering the removal vans. But this time the support was genuine, ensuring Farina kept his job despite a 1-3 start to the season.
Farina said: "I speak with Scott Barlow a lot – and CEO Tony Pignata – and there was nothing but support. Internally there was no speculation but because it was all out there, Scott said to me 'there's nothing happening from our end, just keep going'. That was great support to have from him and the board. If I was at Melbourne Heart I'd probably be gone by now (laughs)."
The season to date
Sydney FC are on the verge of winning four games in a row for the first time in their history. But the run did come off the back of three consecutive losses so Farina is not getting carried away.
"My big thing is consistency and continuing to pick up points as you go, whether it's one or three. We've won three in a row which is always fantastic in terms of climbing up the ladder but things can quickly change if you're not focused. There are no teams in the league where you think 'we're going to go here and get three points'. There are no gimmes," Farina said.
Farina is not surprised at the impact Alessandro Del Piero has had – and continues to have – on the Sky Blues. He has nothing but admiration for the Italian superstar.
"Look at his reaction when the second goal went in last weekend. He was like a kid in a candy shop. It shows that he's passionate about winning and wanting to leave legacy at this club," the coach said.
"He's been fantastic. Not only is he a wonderful human being, he's a great professional on and off the field. The greatest sports people that I've met have all one trait in common – humility. Alessandro's very humble. The greats don't need to spruik how wonderful they are because their deeds speak for themselves."
Every competition needs fierce rivalries and Farina believes the Western Sydney Wanderers' inclusion in the A-League a win-win for his club and the game.
"I think it's been fantastic for Sydney. Last game was a sell-out here (Allianz Stadium), the next game at Pirtek Stadium will be a sell-out and it probably will be again when we play them back here. Sydney was well overdue to have a second club and they got this one right. It's perfect placement in the western suburbs where a lot of top footballers have come from. There is mutual respect between the two clubs but obviously we don't like them, and they don't like us. It's love-hate," he declared.
Socceroos in Brazil
Farina is a realist. A former Socceroos player and coach, he knows Ange Postecoglou's squad will be up against it in at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
He said: "Ange will do a good job. I don't think there should be any undue pressure put on them for results. The World Cup will be a great opportunity for players and Ange to gain experience. We should all sit back and enjoy the ride. Anything beyond the group stage would be a bonus."
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